Category Archives: Net Neutrality

Confusopoly, or Scott Adams, Prophet of Finance

While sitting in a small room perusing a book from the bottom of the stack, The Dilbert Future, I idly looked again at Scott Adam’s prediction #2:
In the future, all barriers to entry will go away and companies will be forced to form what I call “confusopolies”.

Confusopoly: A group of companies with similar products who intentionally confuse customers instead of competing on price.

OK, good snark. But look at the list of industries he identified as already being confusopolies:
  • Telephone service.
  • Insurance.
  • Mortgage loans.
  • Banking.
  • Financial servvces.
Telephone companies of course since then have gone to great lengths to try to nuke net neutrality.

And the other four are the source of the currrent economic meltdown, precisely because they sold products that customers couldn’t understand. Worse, they didn’t even understand them!

It gets better. What industry does he predict will become a confusopoly next? Electricity! And this was in 1998, before Enron engineered confusing California into an electricity-price budget crisis.

For risk management, perhaps it’s worth considering that simply selling something the customer can understand can rank way up there. Certainly for the customer’s risk. And given how much the FIRE companies drank their own Kool-Aid, apparently it’s good risk management for the company itself. Especially given that the Internet now gives the customer more capability to find out what’s going on behind a confusopoly and more ability to vote with their feet.

To actually make a product the customer wants, and then provide good customer service: how old-fashioned! And how less risky and more profitable in the long term.

European Parliament Votes for Internet Freedom and Security

Sometimes a legislative body gets the picture and shows some spine:
Despite last minute attempts by the French government to divide them, European MEPs today voted decisively against “three strikes”, the IFPI-promoted plan to create a class of digital outcasts, forbidden from accessing the Net if repeatedly accused by music companies of downloading infringing content.

In a vote held today, hundreds of MEPs supported language which declared termination of Internet access to be in conflict with “civil liberties and human rights and with the principles of proportionality, effectiveness and dissuasiveness”, all core values of the European Union.

… And Guy Bono, the author of the report, had this to say in the plenary:

“On this subject, I am firmly opposed to the position of some Member States, whose repressive measures are dictated by industries that have been unable to change their business model to face necessities imposed by the information society. The cut of Internet access is a disproportionate measure regarding the objectives. It is a sanction with powerful effects, which could have profound repercussions in a society where access to the Internet is an imperative right for social inclusion.”

European Parliament to Sarkozy: No “Three Strikes” Here, Posted by Danny O’Brien, EFF, April 10th, 2008

The European Parliament voted for social inclusion, participation, and human rights over profits for a tiny group of companies. That wasn’t hard. Even if the vote had gone the other way, it wouldn’t have produced any real security for the tiny group, and the way it did go, it produces far more security for everyone else. Maybe the U.S. can get the message.


Encrypted BitTorrent: Take That, Comcast!

tf-shirt-2.jpg Why am I not surprised?

Several BitTorrent developers have joined forces to propose a new protocol extension with the ability to bypass the BitTorrent interfering techniques used by Comcast and other ISPs. This new form of encryption will be implemented in BitTorrent clients including uTorrent, so Comcast subscribers are free to share again.

BitTorrent Developers Introduce Comcast Busting Encryption, by Ernesto, TorrentFreak, on February 15, 2008

BitTorrent itself is a hack to route around slow uplink speeds by using many uplinks all at once, so why not another hack to encrypt BitTorrent headers to make them harder for the likes of Comcast to detect?

Continue reading

Anti-Trust to Provide Net Neutrality?

Dave Farber wrote an op-ed last week:

The Internet needs a makeover. Unfortunately, congressional initiatives aimed at preserving the best of the old Internet threaten to stifle the emergence of the new one.

Hold Off On Net Neutrality By David Farber and Michael Katz, Washington Post, Friday, January 19, 2007; Page A19

He rightly points out that government invervention could be a cure worse than the disease. (Have I mentioned ISO-OSI lately?) However, I have some problems with his proposed solution.

Continue reading


USAToday announces that AT&T is selling unbundled DSL:
Within a few months, AT&T is expected to start charging $19.95 a month for “naked” DSL, meaning you don’t have to buy any other AT&T (T) service, including phone, to get that rate. It currently charges $45 for a stand-alone broadband subscription.

AT&T also is developing $10 DSL for new subscribers who also buy AT&T-branded phone service.

AT&T plans to offer both services for at least 30 months. The clock starts as soon as the media giant starts selling them in any of the 22 states where it is the incumbent local phone company, including California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.

AT&T to offer $20 ‘naked’ DSL service By Leslie Cauley, USA TODAY, Updated 1/15/2007 3:49 AM ET

Sounds good, eh? Continue reading

Net Neutrality and Windows Vista

Two senators, one from each party, introduce a net neutrality act:
Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) today introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2007.

Dem. and Rep. Senators Introduce Bipartisan Neutrality Bill

Why is this important, beyond all the reasons previously discussed? Continue reading


In other FCC news, this a bit old, the

Not happy with the limited choices you have for broadband Internet access? That may change. The FCC has just announced it plans to back broadband over powerline (BPL) technology, so you may eventually get Net access from your local utility. And AT&T and the other telcos certainly aren’t happy about it.

AT&T’s Newest Enemy: Your Electric Utility by Preston Gralla, Network Computing, 4 August 2006

Personally, I’m dubious that BPL will work well enough to provide much competition, but at least it’s something.

This is also a reminder that the telcos are not the only high-power lobby group in telecommunications.


AT&T from Sea to Sea


Doubtless everyone has heard that the FCC approved the merger of Bellsouth with AT&T, and AT&T has moved ahead with accomplishing that, with various implications for cellphone carrier branding, repatriating jobs that are outsourced, etc.

Some of the provisions are interesting, for example, for a year starting summer 2007 AT&T will give out a free DSL modem to anyone willing to switch from dialup to DSL. On the one hand it’s good to see some U.S. carrier finally doing what Softbank did five or more years ago in Japan. On the other hand, without dialup, you have even less choices than you did before for ISPs.

But what does it mean for net neutrality? Ars Technica thinks it’s good, because of last-minute net neutrality concessions from the corporate merger candidates, and quotes a prominent net neutrality backer:

Professor Tim Wu, writing for, praises the neutrality provisions, but he does note that they are not total. "The agreement does not prevent AT&T from treating different media carried on the Internet differently," he says, "so long as the carrier does not discriminate between who is providing the content. AT&T, under this agreement, may speed all the Internet video traffic on its network (to compete, for example, with cable). But it cannot pick and choose whose video traffic to speed up. In short, AT&T must treat like traffic alike– that is the essence of the agreement."

AT&T agrees to strong network-neutrality provisions, by Nate Anderson, 29 Dec 2006

Prof. Wu also notes that these provisions don’t apply to AT&T’s longhaul IP infrastructure (only to its first and last mile infrastructure); they don’t apply to IPTV; and they only last for two years or until Congress passes a net neutrality act.

And one of those exceptions could be a big loophole.

Continue reading

Net Neutrality and Rights of Way

I just ran across an interesting point regarding net neutrality and what it means that telcos no longer are required to abide by it:
The Bells claim privileges based on over 100 years of practice that may or may not coincide with the intent and limits of the original deals, but the resulting laws explicitly require a public purpose in exchange for the right-of-way concessions.

The obligations established on a state by state basis sometimes include build-out requirements or other compensation, but they all specify that access to state right-of-way at largely no cost or limit requires common carrier status (aka net neutrality.) The loss of common carrier status invalidates the contracts. The Bell companies have no access to state right-of-way for deployment of private, closed, non-neutral, non-common carrier network deployments.

Why Even Bells Need Net Neutrality, By Daniel Berninger, Written by Om Malik, Posted Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 7:07 AM PT

I hadn’t made the connection between net neutrality and rights of way, but clearly there is one. And that’s not all! Continue reading