The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

And So Net Neutrality Ends in the US

Not unexpected. This will make direct competition with entrenched players nearly impossible, as they will be able to buy access to customers, and upstarts won’t. The Internet as a place where anybody could start a new business will constrict.

Oligopoly and monopoly providers (and many areas effectively have only one ISP) will extract even higher profits (understand that high speed internet profits are about 100 percent already) and will either hold anyone who wants to get to customers hostage for access or will force retail customers to pay premium rates for relatively unfettered access.

The fight will continue in court, and can always be overturned by elected officials.

Public internet, by a heavily regulated utility provider, is one solution down the road. The other to do what was done in the days of dial up and force providers to let other companies sell access to the internet through their networks.

To a remarkable degree, the internet is a natural oligopoly. It doesn’t make sense to drive multiple wires or set up multiple sets of towers–that’s irrational. As such, it needs to be regulated as a natural monopoly, with forced upgrades, set levels of profits (a low, single-digit number, inflation-adjusted) and regulatory knee-breakers who are not allowed to work for industries they ever regulated. (Meaning, you can go from industry to regulation, but not vice versa.)

These are, as usual, mostly solved problems. The world has had public or regulated utilities for ages and we know how to make them work if we want to.

Right now we don’t. We want private actors to make unregulated monopoly profits and to shut down innovation and the creation of new work and jobs.

So be it.

(See also, How Internet Monopolies Are Destroying the Web.)

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US Electoral Predictions for 2018 and Beyond


The Torture Culture


  1. bruce wilder

    The “natural monopoly” of the physical network of cables argues for a public utility approach, and for some form of public ownership or non-profit private ownership (co-op for example), with public supervision. Let the public utility providing the network have exclusive rights to exercise necessary public domain authority for easements and the like. But, the public utility should be a wholesaler and common carrier with regard to content providers and consumers.

    Some rate discrimination among classes of content providers and consumers or other businesses (small businesses that want to serve a website representing their business) makes eminent sense. What doesn’t make sense is to hand the authority to draw up a scheme of rate discrimination over to someone who has carte blanche to act as a bandit. This is not an area where one want for-profit business, financialized ownership and control, or a “light touch” with regard to public regulation of rates.

    The municipally-owned electric power utility in a city neighboring to me has built out one of the most powerful fiber optic systems in the country and wholesales to local industry (movie studios) who consume vast quantities of bandwidth.

    Publicly owned or non-profit ownership (local) of the wire-in-the-ground and operation on a wholesale common carrier model, with transparent rate regulation is hardly rocket science. That such proposals are not only not nearly universally adopted, but can hardly be aired, is a measure of how degenerate our political system has become. File this with paper-ballots-publicly-counted-by-hand and usury laws as solutions that our elites cannot stomach.

  2. Alex

    I work for a supplier to the telecom industry, and the latest hype/hope is for “fixed wireless access”, bypassing the land based networks via radio based links to provide service at competitive speeds to the incumbents. Any thoughts from the commentariat as why this could succeed or fail?

  3. nihil obstet

    About 21 state legislatures have passed laws so restricting municipal broadband that it’s effectively outlawed. As soon as the major ISPs see something coming up that threatens their obscene profits, they send their lobbyists dancing through the halls of the legislatures, slapping down “campaign contributions” to all and sundry for laws which end the threat.

    I hope this FCC action will spur the development of cooperatives that will take out the ISPs.

  4. Hugh

    Trump is an unusually ignorant person with dementia on top of clinical narcissism. What we are witnessing on a daily basis is the degeneration of his mind. You can make a list: grandiosity, egocentrism, lack of self-awareness, empathy, and impulse control, erratic behavior, inability to focus, inconsistent statements, and constant remarkably obvious lying. That such a person is in any position of responsibility, let alone the most powerful office on the planet, is criminal to a degree that is difficult even to express. People who knew Trump in New York twenty, even ten years ago, talk about how shocked they are, how changed he is, that they do not even recognize him anymore. So yes, everyone in his family, the White House, Cabinet, and Congress knows how impaired he is, but, as long as they think they can get any mileage to their careers and agendas from him, they all continue to look the other way. The country be damned.

    A psychiatrist I once knew said in a lecture many have the traits, few have the disease. So while you could argue that many politicians share many negative traits with Trump, the difference is that global change which marks the shift from the trait to the disease. You have only to turn on the TV to see it. This is not the same rich, entitled asshole from the “Apprentice”. This is somebody else, and in that is the recognition of the disease.

    Trump’s mental disintegration is ongoing. At some point, he may become completely nonfunctioning. But in the meantime like many people with dementia, he has strategies to mask the extent of his deficits, and much of his core personality remains relatively intact. So we should expect more atmospheric Roy Moore/white supremacist moments where he throws red meat to his most extreme supporters at the same time, on dollars and cents issues, he backs the most horrendous kleptocratic Republican legislation and deregulation as with healthcare, the budge, tax cuts, and of course, net neutrality. Many keep trying to rationalize what Trump is doing, to see in it some grand strategy or but while the strategy is there, it is not about policy but hiding the progression of disease.

  5. Mcmike

    Nihil nailed it. Competition is in fact outlawed

  6. Hugh

    Sorry for typos.

  7. bruce wilder

    Competition is in fact outlawed.


  8. Altandmain

    Ian, what do you think about creating a national publicly owned telecom system? Or a municipal owned broadband? It is likely that such a service would end up like publicly owned utilities and public transit.

    We should not laugh. Bell and Shaw have been trying to do the same here in Canada:

    Bell, Rogers, Shaw, and Telus would no doubt carry out similar policies if they could. So far, the Canadian government to its credit has not allowed this to pass. We will see how long it lasts though and hopefully our government stands up for the public interest.

    Canadians already pay for some of the highest mobile bills in the world. I personally use a smaller carrier, Freedom Mobile, but most other Canadians do not (or cannot as their coverage is not the best). Another question is how the US ending of net neutrality affects Canada.

    In the US, it looks like Trump’s selling out to his base is complete. Either:

    1. He lied to his base and had no intention of doing anything for them (I think this is most likely)
    2. He is being manipulated (he strikes me as dumb and narcissistic)
    3. He’s setting a trap for his opponents in his own party and will attempt a hostile takeover by the Bannon faction

    The internet, once pushed for decentralizing everything, has instead concentrated power in a few corporate hands.

  9. different clue

    I remember reading years ago where various digital interweb designers and big thinkers used to say things like: censorship is just damage. The internet is designed to work around damage.

    Do any of the old-minded digital interweb thinkers yet live? Do they still believe what they used to say they believed? Are they prepared to work on the problem of how to treat the Big Monopolist ISPs as damage and figure out how to work around them?

    I remember seeing on TV a few days ago an ad for “rural satellite internet” being sold as offering internet access to people so far away from the Big ISP infrastructure that the ISPs would never build a line out to where the isolated rural people live. Could that be true? Could such a thing really exist? And if it does, would it uphold the principal of strict neutrality? Equal Internet Access? Internet Freedom and Equal Internet Rights?

    So I search engined it and found 3 possible links. The first one was for a brand that sounds familiar from the ad.
    (This library computer calls that link an “insecure connection”. If people clicking it just to see get the same warning, they will have to decide what it means. As an old analog refugee lost in this new digital world, I have no idea.)

    Here are two more links which seem to be more general.

    Are these just links to cheap trashy come-ons? I don’t know. But if they are what they seem to pretend they imply they are . . . giving equal access to everything with a URL-address in return for a high enough monthly payment to make the rural satellite provider a profit on each subscriber . . . then they may be a workaround for now to the equally for-profit but prospectively user-hostile and information-worthless ISP Majors for whom this FCC ruling was written.

  10. Great to see you advocating profit regulation rather than public ownership for monopolies and oligopolies. This enables continued access to the capital markets for investment and opportunities for new entrants instead of dumping on the taxpayer.

  11. Ed

    Back in the 90’s, several highly funded startups went belly up trying to figure out how to cheaply provide fiber to the home. It’s the last mile that’s the expensive part. However, the cellular companies showed that you can work around that by taking to the airwaves. Satellite internet is in about the same stage as fiber in the 90’s–incredibly expensive still, huge promises, and no clear path to success.

    So from a technical standpoint, I’d run trunk lines and then take to either cellular or strong wifi for the last mile. If we can set up wifi networks in airports and malls, we can do it for a city block in the poor section of town. The rural areas are harder, but I think letting “harder” stop you from doing what you can do is a mistake.

    So the fight should be about allowing more municipalization and finding ways to pay for it. I’ve joked with my wife for some time that if I won the lottery, that’d be my #1 project–funding the network for our town and then turning it over as a utility. The internet matters as much as highways these days, if not more. We shouldn’t allow private entities to control how much it costs to use either (side rant about private/public toll road agreements postponed).

  12. Mr. Unpopular

    As someone who has worked in the audit department at one of the largest public utilities in the US, my view of moving access to the internet to a regulated monopoly model is dim.

    Unless you can structure the profit incentive properly, the opportunity to fraud and misrepresentation is so extreme that not even those who operate the company have enough savvy to understand or control the rape of customers via arcane and intentionally over complicated processes.

    Also, management at such entities have no incentive to do anything unless specifically instructed by the regulator, so investment in safety or innovation is pure wishful thinking.

    Add in regulatory capture through ex-parte communications and the usual back door bribery and it adds up to a nice idea for the shareholders and a hearty “fuck you” to everyone else.

    It strikes me that allowing ISPs to curtail bandwidth to create profit is, like it or not, perfectly within their rights, in the same way that scheduling gas on a transmission pipeline is subject to open bids and regulated by spot pricing in the commodity market, with some regulatory oversight on capital cost recapture. Where I work, the State guarantees a 10.8% return on capital investment, so it’s easy to see which accounts are overstated.

    As much as I hate the idea of being ass fucked by yet another bunch of US trained and thoroughly inculcated H1B visa holding acolytes of rapacious narcissism, and as much as I wish the internet were an unending stream of rainbow ponies and unicorns, I don’t see how you can resolve the current neo-liberal capitalist fetishism with the desire for unfettered access to porn…err information.

  13. RAID: Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Devices.

    There are ways to work around it, notably sat and cell, but they too need be regulated. There will be … inconveniences, get used to it. You drive shitty roads.

  14. highrpm

    law of the jungle or rule of law? i’ll answer with a name. jeffrey eisenach. it screams at you.

  15. Peter


    I read that the big ISP’s now make 5% or less on ROCI so under existing utility regulation they could double their rates and returns.

    Some of the people clamoring for more regulation must know about this possibility. They may be more interested in expanding the regulatory state than controlling consumer costs.

  16. highrpm

    net neutrality demise is yet another example of the tragedy of the commons. poor ole sjw-driven bolsheviks failed to get it right. and will always fail. as the alpha-types — gender independent — know only jungle law. (hollywood harvey weinstein, anyone?) and while talking about hollyworld, remember their golden boy spokesman, ronnie-boy? privatize was the only word in his vocabulary. put there by his owners, the hollywood studios and their owners. law of the jungle. those with the biggest guns win. fuk the idea of public ownership. its all for the taking.

  17. Sid Finster

    Good luck getting that genie back in the bottle.

    (Entrenched interests are also why real healthcare reform is impossible in the US).

  18. Willy

    Trump is an unusually ignorant person with dementia on top of clinical narcissism. What we are witnessing on a daily basis is the degeneration of his mind.

    I was hoping I’d have a very public and very obvious example of what narcissism is all about, to be able to better explain it to those less personally experienced with such. And why nobody wants anybody like that in a position of great power regardless of what team the crazy person claims to be playing for. The obvious dementia will complicate things somewhat.

    His latest comments about the FBI… Seriously, how many enemies can one make and still come out “a winner”? Is this clown on the fast track towards impeachment, or what?

  19. bruce wilder

    Ed: Back in the 90’s, several highly funded startups went belly up trying to figure out how to cheaply provide fiber to the home. It’s the last mile that’s the expensive part.

    Back in the 90’s, the expensive part was the now of the 90’s. It was worth gambling on capturing a then contestable market, because it was obviously going to become ridiculously cheap within a generation. A generation later, even the last mile is ridiculously cheap, especially compared to what was spent in the early and mid-20th century on the mountains of copper wire now known as plain old telephone service.

    Too many analysts get sucked into the neoliberal b.s. economy of moral virtue. Nobody makes money with earnest efforts to invent a better mousetrap. They make money from securing the legal rights to a gateway in our now thoroughly networked economy.

    You can adopt the politics of inevitable surrender to the plutocracy, the fantasy politics of irrelevance (russiagate or Trump’s impeachment being prime examples), or you can get down to re-inventing the left politics of eat the rich. If the rich are not already eating you, they are munching someone else just down the street from you.

    A great many manufactured products have become amazingly cheap very gradually over the last 50 years, but none of that compares to the bottom dropping out of the cost of anything closely related to direct information services. How much have you paid for Wikipedia?

    We could punch a hole in any number of bubbles in the information economy and prices and rates would collapse. That would take a lot of paper “wealth” with it. But, most of us would be better off after the acute crisis passed.

  20. Hugh

    I saw Ajit Pai, the chair of the FCC, say in an interview that this decision was no big deal. Well, if it was no big deal, why make it?

    I enjoyed Mr. Unpopular’s nihilistic argument that if we live in a corrupt system rather than challenging it we should accept defeat and do nothing. Wouldn’t it be more useful to lay out how utilities could be structured so that they serve and continue to serve the public interest?

    The demise of net neutrality is another example of elite theft. Like so much else of what we see in the Trump Presidency, it sharpens the contradictions. We have a ruling class that is only hindered by its own rapacity and incompetence. They would sell our bones for fertilizer if they could only get their act together. Revolutions always are impossible until they happen. Then they become inevitable. The question we should be asking each other, our friends and neighbors is: How much more of this can we take? Doing this, we bring the impossible closer to inevitability.

  21. different clue

    @Mr. Unpopular,

    For recently emerging ISP monopoly companies to picky-choosy what content they will graciously permit to move over “their” intertubes has just been decreed to be their government-granted privilege. It is not their right. It never was. It never will be. Their as-of-yesterday government-granted privilege may just as easily be government-revoked at any moment. All we need is a pro-citizen government. Either a pro-citizen FCC or a pro-citizen Congress and President. That is simple to achieve, though not easy.

    We don’t have to reconcile the current neo-liberal capitalist fetishism with a desire for equal-access re-regulation of the internet common-carrier tubes. We merely have to exterminate the current neo-liberal capitalist fetishism. Not easy, I know.

    The terms “rainbow ponies and unicorns” are used to refer to something that does not, can not, never did exist. But equal-access internet does exist and is therefor a real thing, not a rainbow unicorn pony. And the ISP rent-seeker wannabes had to secure new pro-censorship and pro-extortion rules for handling internet access to make internet-neutrality not a real thing anymore.

    Your reference to porn is interesting. I have read that porn is the heaviest use of the internet in America. If the porn-sender/ porn-viewer community finds their porn throttled back or disappeared or extortionately charged for, they may well become a movement and a lobby to get their free porn back. They could become a very powerful ally-of-convenience to others who wish to get back their internet neutrality for their own various reasons.

    @ those who raised technical questions about “rural satellite internet” . . .
    I am not qualified to assess your comments. I can only assume they are true and correct as of this moment. How many politically-motivated subscribers would it take to provide the embryonic satellite internet providers with enough money to be able to broaden and deepen their systems and lower their prices enough to attract the hordes of apathetic bystanders while still making a profit? Is the question worth asking? Is the problem worth solving? There are currently right now today enough people who hate Amazon enough to pay a higher price for things gotten through non-Amazon channels . . . to keep those channels alive for now. How many people will come to hate the Lords of ISP enough to spend more on little ISP workaround companies in order to keep their money away from the Great ISP Lords altogether?

    The Profitchiseler ISPs have bought laws against municipal internet access provision. But have they outlawed small groups of people from creating bussinesses based on internet provision to municipalities? In other words, it is currently illegal for the town of Dismal Seepage, Minnebraska to create for itself a municipal broadband internet provision network.
    But would it be illegal for some entrepreneurial citizens of Dismal Seepage to create the private for-profit Dismal Seepage Broadband Network Company?

    I hope the quest for net-neutral workarounds against the Lords of ISP is not a fool’s errand in search of a unicorn rainbow sparklepony. I would be willing to pay dollars two-through-nine to a workaround provider in order to with-hold Dollar One from the Internet Bias Monopoly Tubelords. If the quest be successful, then the Shinolaheads can pay more money for equal-access net-neutral internet from the workaround providers, and the shitheads can pay less money for their throttle-and-strangle lessernet from the Infomercial Supersewer ISP providers.

  22. subgenius

    We put up a 2 mile long mesh network in the UK around the turn of the millennium using Linksys routers flashed with a modified Linux – gateways to internet via numerous local biz and residents. Was still running when I left over 5 years later

    It would be really simple to achieve now, and custom hardware is very easy with a little investment and some self-education (also good for countermeasures, but that’s another story)

  23. subgenius

    Satellite internet is shite. You have large latencies and a single node covering a large geographical area – so many users compete for the spectrum. Add in costs of lobbing shit into orbit and the issues with maintenance and upgrades and it looks like the dumb idea it is. Great for broadcast, shite for point to point (unless you have nation-state budgets)

  24. subgenius

    Oh…for the data-mimded, steganography….this will become a thing if the nonsense actually gets legs.

    Find a video communication system run by some monstrosity big enough to game the game (Facebook, google, etc) and intercept the stream and manipulate it – add/read hidden data – the higher quality the source the greater the payload (with 4k on the March, 1080 is doable)

  25. surtt

    The internet has just become cable TV 2.0

  26. highrpm

    @ bruce wilder,
    Nobody makes money with earnest efforts to invent a better mousetrap. They make money from securing the legal rights to a gateway in our now thoroughly networked economy.

    jd rockefeller’s supposed quote comes to mind, I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.

    greed demonstrated by the distribution channels. in amazon’s case, lots lots more than just single digit amounts. instead, closer to 50% of vendors’ profit margin. fukers.

  27. highrpm

    who was the genius to reverse engineer the linksys routers with your flash build? shit, i have a hard enuf time coding my own embedded avr’s with atmel studio 7. i’ve though about meshed internets using idle home laptops/ cells/ desktops. and maybe even offering some .$ per payload ms. but i’m an old fart who finds it easier to bitch than roll up my sleeves and donate my time. can you provide a fearless leader contact i might offer my free time to?

    does this uk citizen-based internet have a website? how the hell did it even get rolling and off the ground?

  28. DMC

    We actually had satellite internet about 15 years ago when living on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs. It was an extreme case of rural isolation and hellishly expensive, though we got it as an employment benefit. It seem to work ok most of the time and had good bandwidth for the time. It was really fast compared to the old telephone dial-up situation we’d been used to. It involved a 4 foot dish on the side of the house that you had to sweep the snow out of if you wanted all your bandwidth. High winds could effect your reception too. But then I’m on a satellite system of some kind from Verizon right now(allegedly), only there’s no dish.

  29. Creigh Gordon

    Subgenius – satellites are expensive. High altitude drones are cheap. Low altitude drones might become almost free.

  30. subgenius


    Here is how the tech has evolved:

    The old collective is no more, I suspect it was done in by the combination of anarchist pranksters behind it combined with the advent of smartphones and big money competition… I found a few other references and a long lost partial site for some elements(not enough detail to be worth posting, plus I value a degree of anonymity LOL)

    But maybe it was just that far ahead of it’s time, or all that is old is new again, or something.

    We used to have fingers in satellite pies around the same period, legitimately…mostly…but that is best left even more obscure, I imagine.

  31. subgenius

    @creigh g

    Drones are poor choice… dirigibles maybe. Although there are issues with helium supply.

  32. subgenius


    My moniker links back to a number of (mis?)adventures, one of the more technical aspects is a little thing known as slackware…

    Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

  33. subgenius


    Act like a dumbshit and they will treat you as an equal

    (I am bad at following this advice, apparently)

  34. A big irony is the way the Dembots are mustering to defend net neutrality. These are the same who for a year now have been denouncing everything not officially sanctioned by the mainstream media and big corporations as “fake news”. Therefore in principle they ought to despise net neutrality and applaud its destruction.

    Once again we see how liberal Democrats have zero principle, and zero brains. Their thought structure literally is nothing more than, “Republicans = Bad”.

  35. Peter

    It’s been a tough year for our angst-laden Marxists who will end the year with a whimper due to this symbolic final enclosure of the commons. Trump marched on Paris and scattered the NWO Warmer fanatics returning their Stalinist redistribution plans to the dustbin of history.

    His tax cuts bill is nearly complete and when signed will cause endless moaning and groaning from the left and his removng CAGW from the list of threats to natonal security is another victory over Marxism and fear.

  36. Mr. Unpopular

    I love this conversation, not least because it’s an interesting proxy for many other civil ailments and coincidentally provides a concrete example of how to deconstruct an argument.

    Many posters seem to start with the conclusion that internet access is a right, ergo, government has a duty to protect. This is followed, often, by pointing to how embedded the internet is in social and business mechanisms. Too, there is frequent discussion about early internet and the expense involved with creating new infrastructure, both in terms of development and deployment of incipient technologies and the inevitable market conglomeration and aggregation that follows. What is merely the long result of mergers and acquisition gives the appearance of natural monopoly.

    Rather than chase that rabbit, I’d be very interested to hear some discussion on the fundamental assumption that there is a right involved.

    What is a right? What responsibility accrues with a right? Surely (here’s an assumption) just as light must have shadow, a right comes with a concomitant civic duty. For example, you have a right to the pursuit of happiness, and a responsibility to allow others their legitimate right to the same. Where they conflict, both parties have a duty to compromise and if they can’t, then adjudication must occur and both parties have a duty to abide by the ruling. This is what society does.

    Apply this construct to the internet. discuss!

    P.S. @ Hugh – I was not trying to be nihilist, I was merely trying to indicate that a public utilities model was not necessarily a workable solution. There are certainly positive things to be done, and in my view, it begins with constructing an argument that understands it’s own foundational assumptions.

    @different clue, interesting that you’re lead in includes a slightly racist allusion to the Chinese. Have you reflected on the parallels to how the railroads were built? I guess in this case the near slave labor is Indian programmers 🙂 More to your point, I hope, is the idea that, yes the government IS the arbitrator of dispute. It’s that or beating the shit out of each until the biggest dude wins. As Thomas Paine articulated, governments are instituted among men to secure those rights collectively that they cannot secure for themselves.

    There will be adjudications that favor our views, and those that don’t. Neither outcome should be seen as either an endorsement or rejection of a moral view. They represent a constant dialogue among differently situated members of a society. Yes we live in a very corrupt system, but it doesn’t rob us of our moral center, our duty to act, nor hope for a convincing argument.

  37. Willy

    Do we have a right to a healthy capitalism? A moral capitalism?

  38. Creigh Gordon

    Mr. Unpopular, we could start with free speech and free press protections that government exists to defend. Also, you are possibly implying that ISPs have property rights etc. that might be adjudicated in their favor. (And given our current Supreme Court, you might be right.) I personally take it that property rights fall well below personal rights and generally have to give way to them. But then I’m not a Supreme Court Justice.

    Personally, I think this decision may backfire on the ISPs. There’s too many plausible alternatives, given today’s technology.

  39. Creigh Gordon

    Willy, you have the right to fight for whatever kind of capitalism you want.

  40. S Brennan

    Another person, totally ignorant of the 1st words in the US Constitution and US history said this:

    “Many posters seem to start with the conclusion that internet access is a right, ergo, government has a duty to protect.”

    And then that person calls for a discussion based on his/her ignorance and neoliberal belief system that all enumerated personal rights and governmental duties in the US Constitution are fungible. I say skip it, read the US Constitution…but since most will not, let me break it down for those who still harbor some affection for the good things this country accomplished.

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,

    1] establish Justice,
    2] insure domestic Tranquility,
    3] provide for the common defense,
    4] promote the general Welfare,
    4] secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

    establish this Constitution for the United States”

    Pretty clear eh? The DUTY of promoting the general welfare, NOT THE WELFARE OF A FEW, is listed right after the DUTY to provide for the common Defense.

    Though the founders did not anticipate the rise of the corporately ruled state which culminated in the gilded age [and it’s resurgence under the Satanic verses of neoliberalism], they did make it clear that it was the role of government to provide such services that enriched the lives of all. The establishment of the US mail service in 1775 the Second Continental Congress should settle the issue, communication was considered key to the general welfare*.

    All the court/regulatory rulings that clearly undermine the foundation of the US Constitution, are attempts to rewrite the US Constitution without going through the trouble of a constitutional amendment, or more truthfully, a Constitutional congress as such rulings negate the entire document…and as such, are illegal.


    “The American Revolution made Philadelphia, the information hub of the new nation. News, new laws, political intelligence, and military orders circulated with a new urgency, and a postal system was necessary. Journalists took the lead, securing post office legislation that allowed them to reach their subscribers at very low cost, and to exchange news from newspapers between the thirteen states. The Postal Clause was added to the Constitution to facilitate interstate communication”

  41. StewartM

    Mr. Unpopular

    Many posters seem to start with the conclusion that internet access is a right, ergo, government has a duty to protect. This is followed, often, by pointing to how embedded the internet is in social and business mechanisms.

    What you are missing is that the repeal of net neutrality is not unlike moving from a universal healthcare system to a US-style private health care system. With the former, the costs are kept down by a variety of measures, including the system’s very simplicity–everything (or most things) are covered, the payee is the same, the paperwork is the same, there’s no hassle over different insurance companies, different plans, in-network or out-of-network care, coverage limits, out-of-pocket costs determination, etc. Similarly, after the repeal of net neutrality when you sign up for internet access, you will be dealing with similar uncertainty generated by telecoms offering different plans—and I predict it won’t be clear to either customer or provider what speed you’ll get, and keeping track of different customers on different plans will add massive overhead costs just like it does in US healthcare.

    And can we not all agree that adding unnecessary costs and inefficiency is not a good thing?

    This is part of the neoliberal feudalization of the economy. There’s a reason why feudal economies were backward, it’s because allowing any local noble the ability to set access costs erects economic barriers. Having transportation, communication, education be public (and low-cost or free) is a huge multiplier for economic progress.


    Your reference to porn is interesting. I have read that porn is the heaviest use of the internet in America. If the porn-sender/ porn-viewer community finds their porn throttled back or disappeared or extortionately charged for, they may well become a movement and a lobby to get their free porn back. They could become a very powerful ally-of-convenience to others who wish to get back their internet neutrality for their own various reasons.

    I differ, porn will be like everything else. What has happened due to the internet is an explosion of low-cost, amateur, porn. Just like with everything else, without net neutrality access barriers will be raised (and encouraged) by the big porn studios with the intention to stifle competition.

  42. StewartM

    S. Brennan

    The establishment of the US mail service in 1775 the Second Continental Congress should settle the issue, communication was considered key to the general welfare*.

    And it’s notable that the USPS has been under attack for almost 50 years, starting with Nixon, by self-described “conservative constitutionalists” who aim to feudalize a service mandated by the US Constitution, and by “original intentists” who conveniently ignore that the very people who wrote the Constitution set us the US mail service.

  43. different clue

    @Mr. Unpopular,

    Thank you for your interest in my comment. I am always happy to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any other concerns. (smiley face emoticon)

  44. different clue


    Your reply to my comment is well taken. Amateur porn is the porn I was thinking of and I had completely forgotten about the Big Studio porn-for-pay.

    So I like to think that there are so many tens of millions of amateur producers and consumers of amateur porn-for-free that if their porn is slowed or blocked, they might form a big angry movement to remove the slowdowns or blocks on their free amateur porn. Bloggers and commenters who find their blogs slowed or blocked might want to join the angry porners. So might other targetted victims of slowage and blockage.

  45. different clue


    ” EnHate me, Dobbs. O enHate me!”

    We will need a thousand hate-based initiatives emanating from a Thousand Points of Hate, all attacking and corroding the ISP tubelords from every direction.

    ” With a head full of plans and a heart full of hate, we can make things happen.”

  46. Mr. Unpopular

    uh oh, S Brennan called me ignorant. Jeeps, I’d better sway my understanding to agree with your assumptions of correct interpretations.

    Hysterically, you interpret an old socialists remarks to be argue for a neo-liberal perspective, which clarifies your capacities for discernment. I’m simply pointing out that, in addition to your perceptions, there are others, and most of those hold sway in the great scheme of things. I do not judge your beliefs, nor do I confuse them with truth or insight.

    You may find greater success if you learn to distinguish between models of existence and your perceptions, eh?

  47. bruce wilder

    @ unpopular

    “I’d be very interested to hear some discussion on the fundamental assumption that there is a right involved.”

    The liberal politics of rights was born in the 17th century during the final breakdown of feudalism in England. A declaration of (constitutional) rights was invented as a way to resolve a crisis of legitimacy and breakdown in order by clothing a new order with the rhetoric of high principle followed by popular acclamation. So the Americans made such declarations to bolster the new republic of the United States. The French declared the Rights of Man and the Citizen. The civilizational crisis of the two world wars was resolved in part by creating the United Nations with a declaration of rights and New Deal liberalism declared in favor of economic rights.

    I cannot see our present breakdown cum legitimacy crisis being resolved by (obviously among a great many other things unrelated to internet access per se) a declaration of a right to internet access, anymore than I think we could declare the right of ISPs “to curtail bandwidth to create profit” and think such a development would not accelerate the crisis of legitimacy. Curtailing bandwidth to create profit, I would think, is obviously dysfunctional economically, as dysfunctional as gaming complex regulation of public utility commissions.

    We do not have a left ideology. We have vague memories of revolutionary Marxism or Leninism, of New Deal liberalism or gradualist socialism or, for Americans, Progressivism or Populism. We have a lot dusty ideas in our civilization’s attic. Modern civilization is arguably at least 500 years old; we have had time. I tend to think cries from the left to declare a right to health care or a right to education or a right to internet access tend to be well-intentioned efforts to re-purpose ideas from the dusty closet, without actually troubling to understand the problems of the moment or build a general diagnosis — in other words, to build a contemporary ideology.

    The established order has an ideology in neoliberalism. The barbarians at the gate do not have an ideology. And, most of the soi disant left critics inside the walls use the concepts and vocabulary of neoliberalism or dead-letter allusions to marxism, without troubling to understand how anything works in the actual political economy. That is no personal failing so much as it is symptomatic of how disorganized what little remains of mass politics is. Developing sophisticated ideas requires both deliberation and a critical audience; our inverted totalitarianism affords neither.

    Organizing internet access without reference to for-profit institutions, by means of non-profit cooperative or municipal sponsorship, is feasible. It is what we should do. Establish publicly owned gateways, where the political power of mass-membership organization can be exercised in favor of a general, public good and as countervailing power against the concentration of private wealth and power.

    Or, as I prefer to term it, eat the rich before they eat you.

  48. Mr. Unpopular

    @ Creigh,

    Given that US law is based in English common law and is largely predicated on institutionalizing property rights (in support of Aristocracy, under cover of unifying the nation way back in 1066 or there abouts…), I think it’s reasonable to start rebutting the FCC’s move there.

    Because fundamentally this is what we’re talking about…the “property” to one camp is access to information, and “property” to the other camp is access to incremental profit based on control of infrastructure. If every American demanded a right to Cheerios, would that mean that general Mills had no right to earnings in it’s role as manufacturer?

    I won’t bite at the line about healthcare because there is no actuarial component to the internet service model and so there’s no real parallel. Interjecting the insurance industry as a mandatory middle man into any market, is inherently corrupt, adds no value, and will intrinsically pervert the provision of service to maximize extraction.

  49. StewartM

    Mr. Unpopular

    I won’t bite at the line about healthcare because there is no actuarial component to the internet service model and so there’s no real parallel.

    I think that point is irrelevant. With net neutrality, you buy a certain speed, and you get it–for everything. It’s a simple system, just like, say, single-payer.

    Now that net neutrality is gone, I don’t see any easy way to predict the speed you buy will actually give you said speed to a given website, just like people with private health insurance try to fathom the lawyer-speak to figure out how much of the out-of-pocket cost they will have to pay for a given procedure. It adds a needless layer of complexity to what was a simple system. I suppose that if we actually regulated things (haha! good ‘un) we might force providers to guarantee if you bought 60 mpbs you’ll always get at least that, no matter where you went, and for additional money you can get faster speeds to specified, popular, sites like Youtube and FB and Netflix, but in without strict oversight the industry has every incentive to throttle people who bought 60 down to 6 just like the airliners have made their economy seats ever-more-cramped to entice people to upscale.

    And so, net neutrality repeal, just like private health insurance, leads to a state of affairs that is “inherently corrupt, adds no value, and will intrinsically pervert the provision of service to maximize extraction”.

  50. Mr. Unpopular

    @ Bruce – thank you! spot on and very good synthesis, I totally agree. I think many have been confused my focus on the core argument and that has led to the misunderstanding that I support Asshat Pai and the FCC in what I consider an unambiguous abuse of power.

    I don’t, but I do recognize that there are “legitimate” variances in perspective, and I’m trying to understand what those are – both rhetorically and practically.

    @ Stewart – yup. I totally agree, but what we don’t know is how the ISP’s will actually act given the new landscape. Not every major player is pleased with this scheme and I’m fairly certain the negotiations will continue. As with most things of this nature, us little guys are not of significant concern to the “deciders.”

  51. realitychecker

    @ Mr. Unpopular

    ” . . . but I do recognize that there are “legitimate” variances in perspective, and I’m trying to understand what those are – both rhetorically and practically.”

    I always welcome another questioning voice–without them, we can’t have a marketplace of ideas.

    Your thinking, as revealed by the above quote, actually shows a higher level of reasoned analysis than many others are capable of (apparently, sigh).

    I applaud that, but would submit to you that one can also take the next step, which is to recognize that while variances of perceptions do exist, they are really not ‘legitimate,’ but rather just reflect that some people’s perceptions accord better with observed/observable realities than do other people’s perceptions. Perceptions that are demonstrably faulty may stem from biological or pychological causes, but neither cause really qualifies as ‘legitimate’ from the POV of the careful analyst.

    ‘Legitimacy’ is not really a concept that applies well to individually idiosyncratic varying human perceptions, but it is a concept that applies well to identifying and calibrating the ‘legitimate interests’ of all players in any given scenario, and dramatically facilitates proceeding to analyze the equities accordingly. That is a skill called “interest analysis,” currently taught only to the best lawyers (within the study of Conflict of Laws), and should really, IMO, be taught to every single child. It would radically clarify and improve our situation overall, rhetorically and practically.

  52. S Brennan

    Bruce Wilder Said:

    “Organizing internet access without reference to for-profit institutions, by means of non-profit cooperative or municipal sponsorship, is feasible. It is what we should do.”

    That’s learned helplessness, here are the:

    The 21 Laws States Use to Crush Broadband


    The law requires that cities wanting to build their own networks hold a referendum before actually building the network. Further restricts towns from offering voice, internet, and cable, as a “triple play” package. The law also prohibits cities from using taxes or bonds to actually build the network. Settles notes that some cities have worked around this by building networks for “internal city or public utility use” and then going from there to provide fiber to the home.


    California has no specific law against a community building its own broadband network, but it does have a statute that states that, if a city builds its own network and then a private company (an ISP, in this case) shows up “ready, willing, and able to acquire, construct, improve, maintain, and operate broadband,” the city has to turn it over or lease it to that company. Sneaky, right?


    The law took away all cities’ rights to own and operate a network unless citizens voted to restore the authority. To establish a new network, a referendum is also necessary. Last year, eight municipalities passed muni broadband referenda, in both heavily liberal and heavily conservative areas.


    No specific broadband law, but all public utilities, including broadband, need to be approved by a voter referendum of 51 percent. In order to get bonds to finance the network, that municipality needs to get 60 percent approval in a referendum.


    The state has a fairly straightforward referendum process in which 65 percent of voters have to approve of a city’s muni broadband plan. Danna MacKenzie, executive director of the office of broadband development for the state, called it a “psychological barrier.”


    One of the most restrictive “if-then” states, Nevada has two laws that make for a somewhat confusing situation. One that says that only counties with fewer than 50,000 people can start a telephone utility and counties with fewer than 55,000 people can start a cable utility. A separate law says that cities with fewer than 25,000 people can start cable and telephone utilities, which includes broadband. That means big cities are screwed.


    There’s no referendum rule here. Instead, the law, passed in 2004, says that cities need to approach their current ISP with a detailed broadband plan. The ISP then has 60 days to take that plan and implement it or reject it. If the company agrees to take the plan, it has a year to build it out. If the plan is turned down, the city is free to build its own network. This has happened only once, in 2006, by Cambria County, which is just east of Pittsburgh.


    Only so-called “code cities” can offer telecom services. This means that the town or city has to have specific municipal laws and codes, which are common but not ubiquitous in the state.


    Passed in 2003, a city must devise a three-year feasibility study before it can build out a network. It has to make this study public for 30 days before it actually passes any resolution that would build the network.


    Michael Watza, a government litigator in Michigan, says the law in the state is “being represented by industry to municipal elected officials as absolute bans.” He says that it is indeed possible to jump through the hoops the state has created, but that no city has tried.

    “There are statutory restrictions, competitive bidding with an industry bias built in, mildly onerous separate accounting and projection requirements, industry-biased geographic limitations and artificial time delays,” he added.


    There are six laws in Florida relating to municipal broadband. One of them is a Pennsylvania-like law that requires a city to take its plan to its incumbent ISP. Unlike in Pennsylvania, however, the ISP can sit on that proposal indefinitely. Another law requires public networks to become profitable within four years or run the risk of losing the network. It also prohibits cities from using tax money to build the network.

    Despite all that nonsense, Palm Coast managed to build a fiber network by taking out loans to connect its municipal buildings with fiber (which is not prohibited), setting up the infrastructure. It then partnered with two smaller ISPs to build that fiber out to its residents.


    Creating a fiber network in Louisiana is so legally perilous that it’s a wonder Lafayette has managed to create one of the nation’s most successfully municipal fiber ISPs. Settles describes the 2004 laws as a “series of daunting hurdles, each with hooks and open-ended wording that invite mischief by muni network opponents.” First off, a city must create an entirely different entity to own and manage the network that cannot receive any money from other government coffers. If a city fails to have a referendum, existing ISPs no longer have to pay franchise fees to the city for 10 years.

    Public entities also have to pay more taxes than private telcos and there are restrictions on advertising.

    Lafayette Utilities System director Terry Huval says that “elected officials in other communities may look at these laws and realize that a broadband project could trigger legal battles that could last the entire time they are in office.”

    No community besides Lafayette has tried to build a network.

    North Carolina

    There are 15 specific legal hoops cities need to jump through before building a network, and “each requirement is structured or worded to invite incumbents’ challenges no matter what a city does to comply.” Cities are restricted from offering services below costs, even for a short intro period, as is common in the business. Cities have to prove that at least 50 percent of its residents don’t already have broadband.

    The city of Wilson has had a network since 2008—before these laws existed—but wants to expand it, and is one of the cities challenging the FCC to preempt the state’s laws. “Most cities in the state don’t have enough lawyers—or enough with telecom law expertise—nor the budget to fight the kinds of drawn out battles [needed to build a network],” said Will Aycock, general manager of the network.

    South Carolina

    South Carolina’s law was passed in 2012, modeled on North Carolina’s law, and was a direct response to Orangeburg County receiving a grant to build a network to stimulate the economy in an area of the state where 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.


    Cities can build their own fiber, but are then required to sell it at a cut rate to another ISP, which will repackage it and sell it directly to consumers. Lawmakers there also introduced two separate bills that would have prevented a private firm from saving the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, a consortium of 16 cities that offer fiber to their residents under one umbrella agency (in accordance with the wholesale law). UTOPIA, however, was popular enough that both of those bills died.
    Total Ban


    There is a law that states “a government entity may not provide, directly or indirectly, basic local exchange service.”


    Missouri has one of the first anti-municipal broadband laws in the country. In fact, after a very complex and long legal proceeding, the Supreme Court ruled that the state did, in fact, have the right to ban broadband. That law, passed in 1997, bans public entities from owning and providing telecom services. After the law was upheld by the Supreme Court, a flurry of other states (with ISP lobbying and input) rushed to pass many of the laws you see here.

    Despite that fact, several local electric co-ops have managed, without the government, to create fiber networks.


    A very short law reads: “An agency or political subdivision may not act as an internet services provider when providing advanced services that are not otherwise available from a private internet services provider within the jurisdiction served by the agency or political subdivision.”

    The reading of that is quite broad and suggests that any service whatsoever from a private ISP is enough to disqualify local government networks.


    Cities are completely prohibited from selling broadband, telecom, or cable services.


    Only municipalities that already own an electric utility may offer broadband services. It may not offer services outside of the area where it sells electricity, which is a barrier that Chattanooga’s utility has run into—it’s currently petitioning the FCC to preempt the law. Eight separate bills were written last year that would wholly or partially repeal these laws in the states, so things seem to be trending in the right direction.


    Similar to Tennessee’s law, cities without an existing public utility may not offer broadband services. Those that do own utilities may offer services but only with heavy restrictions, which has served as a full ban as no cities (from what I can tell) have tried to start fiber networks. An existing network in Bristol was grandfathered in.

  53. Willy

    ‘Legitimacy’ is not really a concept that applies well to individually idiosyncratic varying human perceptions…

    Most people want to project their own experiences onto all of reality, as if what’s worked for them will surely work for everybody else. This goes double for when they’re under stress. But the best manipulators are very good at persuading the susceptible majority (IMHO) to views outside of that natural state. Con artistry, cult building… works on far too many (again IMHO) because they’re hardwired that way.

    … a skill called “interest analysis,” currently taught only to the best lawyers (within the study of Conflict of Laws), and should really, IMO, be taught to every single child.

    I’m not being contradictory or facetious when I ask this. I am not attacking you, just being curious. I don’t mean to muddy up this conversation. But having to deal with the mob is reality. You seriously believe that if those chanting “Lock Her Up” had been so taught, they would have instead been chanting “Lock Her, AND YOU, up!” ?

    For example, if a fully rational conclusion resulted from this conversation, how would the average Joe be persuaded to that view?

  54. Hvd

    Of course rc interest analysis has for the most part been abandoned in conflict of laws analysis and replaced by what pretends to be rule based analysis dependent on whether issues are procedural or substantive etc. I don’t have the current restatement cites but I know that my state, nj, has abandoned interest analysis for the rule based system just as it has abandoned fundamental fairness analysis embodied in the same evidence test for double jeopardy and other issues dependent therefrom in favor of the dumb, rule based blockburger analysis of the feds. People are finding it increasingly difficult to hold more than one thought in their heads at the same time.

  55. Hugh

    It comes down to what kind of a society we want. An economy exists to serve and maintain that society, not the other way around. Rights and obligations are what we accord and accept from each other. As members of a society, we are each of us, two people, one social, one private. Our social personhood with its rights, duties, and responsibilities is always dominant because without it we have no society. And society gives us everything from our language to our values to our economy to the possibility of having a private life. In this context, there is no “right” for ISPs to force us to buy their bandwidth and their content. The proper question is is there any social good that would come from such an arrangement. The answer to this question is no.

  56. realitychecker

    @ Willy

    Just consider whether I am offering a better analytical tool than mere ‘feelings.”

    One step at a time . . .

  57. realitychecker

    @ hvd

    I was trying to illuminate the concept of interest analysis, not giving a current legal opinion for any particular state.

    (I studied this stuff at Cardozo in NY in the 1980’s, got a very rare A in the (elective) course. Of course, much law has changed since those days (sigh), and I stopped actively practicing law when I moved to Atlanta in 1989.)

    I find it useful to base most of my analytical work on concept, i.e., trying to find the ones that are the most useful, the most powerful, the most consonant with essential substance in preference to mere form or symbolism. So, e.g., Carter’s concept of ‘zero based budgeting’ always struck me as very useful as applied to making a fresh analysis of any important situation, rather than passively accepting a possibly-stale analysis.

    Similarly, I immediately grasped the power and utility of the interest analysis concept, as applied to any analytical situation, as soon as I became conversant with the basic concept.

    I submit that we would all get a lot closer to analyses and solutions that make more sense and hold up better over time if we learned to employ both of these analytical tools.

  58. bruce wilder

    S Brennan

    Learned helplessness?

  59. S Brennan

    Bruce you recommended a course of action that is illegal in most states. I took the time to list out all the states and a summation of the laws against your proposed course of action, your feigned ignorance of the data provided in my post is beyond comprehesion.

  60. Creigh Gordon

    @ Mr. Unpopular, “Given that US law…is largely predicated on institutionalizing property rights.” Yup, it certainly is that way in the view of the Republican Party. They support strong defense (protection of property rights at home and abroad), low taxes (aka theft of property), deregulation (restrictions on property rights), and not much else. Kinda give short shrift to “promoting the general Welfare,” which phrase, interestingly, was deleted from the Confederate Constitution, which otherwise followed the US Constitution word for word for long stretches.

  61. nihil obstet

    @S Brennan

    21 states have made municipal broadband virtually impossible. I’m sometimes careless with math, but I don’t think that’s “most” even in the widest interpretation. None that I know of have outlawed non-profit or co-operative ISPs, and I don’t believe they can legally do so. Cities are legally the creation of states and municipal powers are granted by the states, so state legislatures can proceed as 21 of them have. But I don’t know of any legal way that legislatures currently can restrict non-profits from undertaking activities that profit-making firms can undertake. In this context, I’m not sure what your summary of the state laws on municipal broadbands is designed to show.

  62. S Brennan

    “21 states have made municipal broadband virtually impossible. I’m sometimes careless with math, but I don’t think that’s “most” even in the widest interpretation.” – nihil obstet

    So 21 states have laws forcing municipalities to either not build or sell their assets to a single monopoly at whatever price they set and the sixth court has said that this interference with interstate commerce is sanctioned at the federal level to which the Supremes agreed back in 2009 and you don’t think that these rulings don’t apply to all? Sheesh, tested in 21 states…but somehow a city should roll the dice in the hope of overturning a 6th court and Supreme ruling.

    BTW, since you revel in tedious pedantics…addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is…wait for it…arithmetic.

  63. nihil obstet

    Reveling away in tedious pedantics, let me see if I understand what you’re saying. When you say to Bruce Wilder, “you recommended a course of action that is illegal in most states”, what you meant is that one state, Utah, has made municipal broadband illegal, and 20 states have laws that make municipal broadband difficult to varying degrees. A number of cities in those states have actually undergone the difficulties and established municipal broadbands. But this makes all municipal broadband illegal as well as private non-profit broadband. I don’t agree, especially since I don’t see how laws that the Utah legislature passes for Utah municipalities can have any force on cities in Nebraska.

    When you say, ” Sheesh, tested in 21 states…but somehow a city should roll the dice in the hope of overturning a 6th court and Supreme ruling.” I guess you must mean that all other states can pass Utah-type rules for their municipalities. I’d be willing to roll the dice on that assumption.

    But the basic issue here that I don’t get is what is “learned helplessness”. Anyone who advocates for municipal broadband where it is possible and non-profit where it isn’t is exhibiting “learned helplessness”, but anyone who says “you can’t do it because it’s all illegal” is exhibiting what?

  64. bruce wilder

    S Brennan (Dec 17)

    You seem to want to provoke my hostility; I do not know why. If you would look only at my comments prior to the one you quoted in your original 21 states comment, you will see that I was aware of efforts to prevent competition for for-profit isp’s from public and non-profit organization. I think your post, with its detail, is very useful.

  65. S Brennan

    Again Bruce:

    S Brennan permalink
    December 17, 2017

    Bruce you recommended a course of action that is illegal in most states. I took the time to list out all the states and a summation of the laws against your proposed course of action, your feigned ignorance of the data provided in my post is beyond comprehesion.

  66. different clue


    I just found on Reddit an article about “mesh networks”. It appears to be trying to make the subject simple enough for me-the-analog-layman to understand. But have they gotten it right?
    Is this possible the way they say it is possible? Did the people they cite as having done it really do it the way they said?

    Here is the link to the article of which I speak.

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