The simplest fix is to simply re-impose common carrier rules. All that takes is 3 out of 5 FCC commissioners to vote to do so and the FCC has those votes today.
Everyone knows their internet service should work like a utility. You pay Comcast or AT&T a certain amount of money per month and you get a level of service and you get to watch Netflix or upload videos and play World of Warcraft or whatever it is you like to do on the internet. At least in theory.
Unfortunately, Comcast and AT&T are powerful and profitable, and they do not want to be utilities. Being a utility is boring. A utility’s profit margins, while solid, don’t compare to that of a Google or a Facebook or a Netflix. And because AT&T and Verizon and Comcast are the necessary pipes between you and those services, they’d like to get paid double.
“A survey of pre-code movies is an excellent antidote to much of the nonsense we sometimes hear about “old-fashioned morality.” Our grandparents’ generation is sometimes said to have lived in a more innocent time, before America went to Hell in a handbasket and began abandoning traditional morality. But it turns out our grandparents were lining up at the box office to see movies like She Couldn’t Say No or The Unholy Three. Those pre-code movies are a good reminder that much of what gets glibly described as “traditional morality” was actually really, really immoral. I don’t just mean that people back then were titillated by stories they regarded as immoral. That’s always been true and probably always will be true. That’s the transgressive allure of the lurid, and there’s a sense in which it does as much to reinforce the prevailing morality as any moral code.”—When moral codes codify immorality (via azspot)
In World War II, Bletchley Park was Great Britain’s codebreaking command center. In absolute secrecy, the Allies’ brightest mathematical minds worked together to decrypt Axis codes. And while some of the computing power involved was mechanical, many of the “computers” doing the brute-force math were actually young women. The Bletchley Circle, returning to PBS for a second season April 13, springboards from a simple but intriguing question: What did those women do after the war?
“There’s no question, at least in my mind, that broadband is just as much a requirement for day-to-day life as is electricity, water, sewage, paved roads, etc. And, like said utilities, broadband lends itself to a natural monopoly; the cost of capital for building out a network are so great that the economics demand a single provider.”—Ben Thompson, “Netflix and Net Neutrality”
“In a perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government, the internet has gone from vibrant center of the new economy to burgeoning tool of economic control. Where America once had Rockefeller and Carnegie, it now has Comcast’s Brian Roberts, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, robber barons for a new age of infrastructure monopoly built on fiber optics and kitty GIFs.”—Nilay Patel, “The Internet is F***ed”.
“But commodities like healthcare and the Internet are different. They’re absolute necessities bordering on human rights, for which there is no substitute. They’re enormous and impossible for an underdog to produce at a lower cost. And they’re easy for ruthless corporations to monopolize and vertically integrate for exploitative, rent-seeking purposes absent government intervention. Allowing a “free market” in such commodities isn’t free at all. It’s insane. It’s guaranteed to produce monopolies, high prices and terrible service. Which is exactly what we have in American healthcare and American internet: the world’s freest, and therefore worst and most expensive, markets in essential services.”—Hullabaloo (via azspot)
To be clear, the FCC’s priority must be reclassification. That’s the only solution that reflects today’s reality. Modern broadband providers are quintessential common carriers, and the very few options for high-speed broadband in most markets means that consumers can’t vote with their feet and discipline provider misbehavior. Reclassification also doesn’t raise the specter of unintended consequences, which some have pointed to as a danger if the FCC moves ahead with net neutrality rules without taking that step.
David Carr on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal:
Foremost, Comcast already has a huge regulatory win in the bank. Its proposed acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2009 was met with abundant skepticism, with consumer advocates contending that control over both so much content and distribution gave it too much market power. The company maneuvered its way past those hurdles and won approval by making some concessions and commitments, and it is in an even stronger position today.
Consider that one of the Federal Communications Commission regulators who approved the NBCUniversal deal, Meredith Attwell Baker, now works for Comcast as a lobbyist. Since that deal, there has been a change in leadership at the commission, and it is now run by Tom Wheeler, who was previously a chief lobbyist for the cable industry. (Comcast is among the biggest spenders on lobbying, having written checks for $18 million in 2013 alone.)
The deck is absolutely stacked for this deal to happen. Which is, of course, total bullshit. Continues Carr:
Cable is a necessary evil that works best when we can exercise consumer choice. I live in northern New Jersey and used to be a Comcast customer — I dumped it after one of its technicians pointed to the cable running through the trees and said I might not have a great connection when the wind was blowing. I switched to Verizon FiOS’s fiber-optic service and have been very happy since. (Not cheap, but it works.) When, you might ask, will the fiber-optic future arrive at your house? How about never? Does never sound good?
No, it does not. But much of the cable market has already been divided up — as the executives behind the merger noted, Time Warner and Comcast do not overlap in any markets, and Verizon has previously agreed not to expand. Comcast, which will now have less competition, will have less motivation to invest in building out infrastructure like fiber-optic networks at the expense of its shareholders.
It’s not so much that Comcast is stifling some existing competition here — it’s that they’re ensuring there will never be any competition to speak of. And even if this monopolist is benevolent, they’ll have no true incentive to push innovation forward. And that hurts us all in so many more ways than just our checkbooks.
And this is generally what you see. In almost any online services marketplace you see a few competing firms, and you see opportunities for new firms to get into the game. The online services also to some extent compete with offline services (going to the movie theater, etc.) or cross-modally (play games rather than watch movies). Broadband Internet, by contrast, is a profoundly uncompetitive marketplace. So a regulatory shift that pushes money out of the online services sector and into the broadband sector is a regulatory shift that pushes profit opportunities out of a competitive sector and into an uncompetitive sector. That’s bad news for the economy.
At least that’s how it looks to me. Now maybe you think that making the broadband sector more profitable will be enough to spur massive infrastructure investment and the creation of a robustly competitive marketplace where the vast majority of customers have three or four broadband providers to choose from. To me that sounds like a fantasy that flies in the face of the basic economics of infrastructure construction. And that’s why the broadband industry needs to be regulated in such a way as to prevent it from swallowing all the surplus that exists on the Web.
“Think of the, er, Intertubes as a water supply system, and the Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Time-Warner (obscenely profitable) regional monopolies as utilities. Up until the Court’s ruling Tuesday, they own the pipes, and water’s water; you get charged the same price for water no matter where it comes from; it’s all equally treated. What these guys want to do is leverage their control over the pipes to sell you different kinds of water; “innovative” water from a branded faucet, if you will.”—
“This is an emergency. It’s time for everyone with a computer, everyone with a cell phone, everyone who uses discount phone cards – those place calls over the internet – to insist, to demand of this president and this Congress that they protect the public’s right to communicate with itself, that they protect the free and open internet upon which we all depend.”—
“Amateurs are content at some point to let their efforts become bottom-up operations. After about fifty hours of training — whether in skiing or driving — people get to that “good-enough” performance level, where they can go through the motions more or less effortlessly. They no longer feel the need for concentrated practice, but are content to coast on what they’ve learned. No matter how much more they practice in this bottom-up mode, their improvement will be negligible. The experts, in contrast, keep paying attention top-down, intentionally counteracting the brain’s urge to automatize routines. They concentrate actively on those moves they have yet to perfect, on correcting what’s not working in their game, and on refining their mental models of how to play the game, or focusing on the particulars of feedback from a seasoned coach. Those at the top never stop learning: if at any point they start coasting and stop such smart practice, too much of their game becomes bottom-up and their skills plateau.”—
“…despite the way it’s often discussed by creationists and anti-religion zealots, evolution says nothing about the existence of God. A scientific concept backed by an overwhelming amount of supporting evidence, evolution describes a process by which species change over time. It hazards no speculations about the origins of that process.”—Evolution is not a matter of belief (via azspot)
“Eventually, if America is to have truly state-of-the-art broadband, as a number of other countries have done, we will have to recognize that there’s little genuine competition among ISPs today. We’ll have to accept that there’s a natural monopoly in the deployment of fiber optic lines to homes and businesses (or at least to the curb outside). If we allow single companies to build those lines, we will have to require that those companies allow others to provide internet access itself on the lines – sharing them, in other words.”—Ruling Against Net Neutrality: Victory for Telecoms, Blow For Rest of Us (via azspot)
Limbaugh and Varney are really taking aim at is New Deal-inspired liberal economics - which is not about Marxism or destroying capitalism. Instead, it is about saving capitalism from those bad apples that would abuse it, seeing it only as a means to create non-meritorious wealth by dint of deceit and unscrupulousness.
Part and parcel of New Deal economics is Distributive Justice. Its roots are found in the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Maimonides and adopted into Catholicism by Thomas Aquinas. And it is Aquinas who defines distributive justice as follows:
…in distributive justice something is given to a private individual, in so far as what belongs to the whole is due to the part, and in a quantity that is proportionate to the importance of the position of that part in respect of the whole. Consequently in distributive justice a person receives all the more of the common goods, according as he holds a more prominent position in the community. This prominence in an aristocratic community is gauged according to virtue, in an oligarchy according to wealth, in a democracy according to liberty, and in various ways according to various forms of community. Hence in distributive justice the mean is observed, not according to equality between thing and thing, but according to proportion between things and persons: in such a way that even as one person surpasses another, so that which is given to one person surpasses that which is allotted to another.(1)
Aquinas addresses something either Limbaugh or Varney conspicuously do not: a duty to distribute with provision to the poorest of society
That is why with the issuance of Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical, Rerum novarum (Of New Things; subtitled, “The Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor”) Distributive Justice was adopted as the heart and soul of Catholic Economics.
“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements… The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of [sic] the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians.”—Pope Francis (via azspot)
“Children succeed in classrooms where they are expected to succeed. Schools work best when they operate with a clarity of mission: as places to help students master complex academic material (not as sites dedicated to excellence in sport, she hastens to add). When teachers demand rigorous work, students often rise to the occasion, whereas tracking students at different cognitive levels tends to “diminish learning and boost inequality”. Low expectations are often duly rewarded.”—
“…I have a lot of trouble with the word “reform” being attached to what’s happening right now. That’s why I call it the privatization movement. So if the privatization movement continues unchecked, then yes, it will destroy public education. There’ll be public education here and there in relatively affluent communities that are untouched, but it’ll be dead in the cities, and it’ll be dead in the inner suburbs. It won’t be completely privatized, but there’ll be a dual system. That’s what I say in the book. We thought that with the Brown v.Board of Education decision we’d gotten away from dual schools, but the rise of this privatization movement says, “Here’s a chance for your children to get out of the public schools and just be with kids like themselves, and if there are any kids who are trouble, we kick them out.” And lots of parents say, “Wow, that sounds like a great deal, I’ll go for that.” What’s going on right now is an effort to turn what is a public responsibility into a free market exercise. We’ve already seen the privatization movement take hold in the prison system, we’ve seen it take hold in the hospital system, and there are lots of other areas of public life where people are looking for an opportunity to make big bucks. And now their focus is on education as being a moneymaker and a place to invest and turn a profit.”—Diane Ravitch (via azspot)
“…markets don’t exist in a state of nature; they’re human creations. Governments don’t intrude on free markets; governments organize and maintain markets. Markets aren’t “free” of rules; the rules define them. The rules can be designed to maximize efficiency (given the current distribution of resources), or growth (depending on what we’re willing to sacrifice to obtain that growth), or fairness (depending on our ideas about a decent society). They can even be designed to entrench and enhance the wealth of a few at the top, and keep almost everyone else comparatively poor and economically insecure.”—Robert Reich (via azspot)