Be Thankful for the Internet as You Know It, Because It May Not Exist Much Longer

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

The day before Thanksgiving, November 23, the FCC dropped its proposal “Restoring Internet Freedom,” FAQ and Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order (PDF); they hope to schedule a vote on it for December 14. (Honestly. Why don’t they just go whole hog and schedule the vote for December 24?) Let me start out by drawing attention to this remarkable passage in the FAQ:

What the Order Would Do:

• Find that the public interest is not served by adding to the already-voluminous record in this proceeding additional materials, including confidential materials submitted in other proceedings.

What could those “confidential materials submitted in other proceedings” possibly be? Let’s speculate. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman writes in an open letter to (former Verizon lawyer and) FCC chair Ajit Pai:

[F]or six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers’ and other Americans’ identities

Long story short: Bots[1] organized by some unknown entity filed enormous numbers of often identical comments on the proposal with the FCC. This matters, because as Schneiderman points out:

Federal law requires the FCC and all federal agencies to take public comments on proposed rules into account — so it is important that the public comment process actually enable the voices of the millions of individuals and businesses who will be affected to be heard.

Which is hard to do when the organic comments are drowned out. As a legal matter, Schneiderman seems concerned with the theft of the identities that putatively signed the comments, and to that end:

We made our request for logs and other records at least 9 times over 5 months: in June, July, August, September, October (three times), and November.

To which the FCC has so far been unresponsive. As Yves pointed out:

The Trump Administration says it plans to ignore public comments, which would seem to open up the ruling to a procedural challenge by anyone who had standing.

And what I would speculate is that the “confidential materials submitted in other proceedings” bear on Schneiderman’s request, which the FCC intends to stiff, since not taking pubic comments into account would certainly open the FCC to procedural challenge.

With that detour into the weeds out of the way, in this post I will answer the following questions:

1) What is “Net Neutrality”?

2) What would a “Packaged Internet” look like? (I needed a phrase that implies the opposite of “Net Neutrality,” which “Packaged Internet” seems to do. “Rigged Internet,” my second choice, didn’t incorporate the cable-like package business model; see below.)

3) What are the real and theoretical harms of a “Packaged Internet”?

And I’ll conclude with some thoughts on action to secure net neutrality, past and present. (I will also add an Appendix on how the Democrats helped create this mess, because of course they did.)

What is “Net Neutrality”?

In the shortest posssible form: You are surfing the net at your browser, and your ISP is delivering bits that build the pages that you read (or watch (or listen to)). All bits are treated equally, no matter what (“neutrality”). The ISP must treat the bits that build this page at Naked Capitalism exactly as it treats the bits that build the Google search page or the Washington Post front page or whatever. So they can’t cripple us to boost WaPo.

In somewhat longer form, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Net neutrality is the right to go where you want and do what you want on the internet without your broadband provider getting in the way. It means your broadband provider can’t block websites, throttle services or charge you premiums if you want to reach certain online content.

Without it, your broadband provider could carve internet access into fast and slow lanes, favoring the traffic of online platforms that have made special payments and consigning all others to a bumpy road. Your provider would have the power to choose which voices online to amplify and which to censor. The move could affect everything online, including the connections we make and the communities we create.

And in long form, as I wrote earlier this year:

Although the Obama administration initially set the table for net neutrality’s abolition — its choice for FCC Commissioner, Tom Wheeler, was a tube cable lobbyist — a successful grassroots campaign — which, besides online activists, also included corporate heavweights that benefit from net neutrality, like Google — ultimately led in 2015 to net neutrality’s adoption, as the FCC decided to regulate ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act as common carriers. (This is like treating ISPs as public utilities, and the issue is often framed that way, but the two are not identical in function or law). Tim Wu explains “common carrier”:

The concept of a “common carrier,” dating from 16th century English common law, captures many similar concepts [to open access and anti-discrimination remedies for “threats to the end-to-end nature of the Internet”]. A common carrier, in its original meaning, is a private entity that performs a public function (the law was first developed around port authorities).

Taxis, for example, are common carriers.

So, if taxis were no longer common carriers, but worked the way Ajit Pay — sorry, Pai — wants the Internet to work (and incorporating Rosenworcel’s verbiage), taxis wouldn’t have to pick you up if they didn’t want to (“choose which voices”), wouldn’t have to take you where you asked to go if they didn’t want to (“blocking”), could take the slow route to the airport unless you offered to pay extra (“throttling”), could charge you a fee to turn off the sound for that [family blogg]ing TV on the back of the driver’s seat (“charge you premiums”), or even charge you extra for picking you up at Penn Station as opposed to the Port Authority (“favoring the traffic of online platforms”). The taxi companies would love this. Nobody else would. ISPs would love a Packaged Internet. Nobody else would.

What Would a “Packaged Internet” Look Like?

In short form, the Packaged Internet would look like cable[2]. Ro Khanna tweets:

A more concrete portrayal:

And good luck trying to change the terms of your package:

What Are the Real and Theoretical Harms of a “Packaged Internet”?

The ISPs say they’ll behave:

Too funny. The Rice-Davies Rule applies to what they say: “They would, wouldn’t they?”

And the FCC agrees with the ISPs. From the Order:

“Because of the paucity of concrete evidence of harms to the openness of the Internet, the Title II Order and its proponents have heavily relied on purely speculative threats. We do not believe hypothetical harms, unsupported by empirical data, economic theory, or even recent anecdotes, provide a basis for public-utility regulation of ISPs.428 Indeed, economic theory demonstrates[3] that many of the practices prohibited by the Title II Order can sometimes harm consumers and sometimes benefit consumers; therefore, it is not accurate to presume that all hypothetical effects are harmful.

The ISPs are lying, and the Ajit Pai is lying. Stanford’s Barbara van Schewick has a long list of the legal maneuvers the ISPs have deployed to circumvent net neutrality. And Techdirt has an excellent compilation of real harms where ISPs blocked, throttled, and generally gamed the net to their advantage.

You know, speculative instances like that time AT&T blocked customer access to Facetime in order to drive them to more expensive mobile data plans. Or the time AT&T throttled users then lied about it (something AT&T’s still fighting a lawsuit over). Or that time Comcast applied arbitrary and completely unnecessary usage caps and overage fees to its broadband service (again, thanks to a lack of competition), then exempted the company’s own content from those caps while still penalizing competitors. Or how about that time Verizon blocked competing mobile wallets from even working on its phones to give its own payment platform an advantage?

There’s plenty more very real, very non-speculative examples where that came from, and the problem gets worse if you look at the bad behavior by ISPs on the privacy front (also caused by a lack of competition). Like when AT&T decided to charge users hundreds of extra dollars a month just to opt out of snoopvertising, or the time Verizon was busted covertly modifying user packets to track users around the internet without telling them — or letting them opt out.

If you think these very real market harms are “speculative” you’ve been in a coma for the last decade. Yet this argument that net neutrality is an entirely theoretical problem sits at the heart of the FCC’s order.

“We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content” my sweet Aunt Fanny.

And here is a list of theoretical harms that a cursory survey of the Twitter provides:

  • Bitcoin throttling: “Loss of ‘Net Neutrality’ means US government will be able to throttle traffic to #Bitcoin exchanges…” (presumably by asking the ISPs to do so)
  • Search engine packaging: If FCC dismantles [net neutrality], and you get internet from Verizon, they may force you to use Yahoo as your search engine (because they own it), but PAY to use GOOGLE.
  • Free speech suppression: From The Nation:

    [The FCC proposal] would “rig the internet,” according to Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who say, “If [Pai] is successful, Chairman Pai will hand the keys to our open internet to major corporations to charge more for a tiered system where wealthy and powerful websites can pay to have their content delivered faster to consumers. This leaves smaller, independent websites with slower load times and consumers with obstructed access to the internet—a particularly harmful decision for communities of color, students, and online activists. This is an assault on the freedom of speech and therefore our democracy.”

  • Crippled activism: From Tim Karr of Free Press on Democracy Now:

    The Internet was created as this network where, where there were no gatekeepers. Essentially, anyone who goes online can connect with everyone else online. And that’s given rise to all sorts of innovation, it’s allowed political organizers, and racial justice advocates to use this tool to contact people, to organize, to get their message out.


Net Neutrality is important to Naked Capitalism. As I wrote:

Naked Capitalism is a small blog. It’s in our interest — and we like to think it’s in your interest too, dear readers, and in the public interest as well — to be just as accessible to the public on the Internet as a giant site like the Washington Post or the New York Times (or Facebook). If you agree, please support Naked Capitalism and all small blogs by vociferously supporting network neutrality in every venue available to you. Help Naked Capitalism stay unthrottled!

(And if you think the battle is hopeless, see this must-read by Matt Stoller on the fight that got the FCC to treat the Internet as a common carrier in the first place.) The Verge has an excellent article on all the venues where Net Neutrality is being supported; the tactic that particularly appeals to me is protests at stores also owned by Ajit Pai’s owner: Verizon. And, as ever, I recomment a Letter to the Editor in your local newspaper.

[1] Via Motherboard:

This one was sent to the FCC 1.2 million times:

The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation.\n\nI urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years.\n\nThe plan currently under consideration at the FCC to repeal Obama’s Title II power grab is a positive step forward and will help to promote a truly free and open internet for everyone.\n

Yes, the “\n” was really there. (I say “unknown entity” because although the New York Post blames “Russians,” they give no source, and attribution is hard.)

[2] Market fundamentalists argue that competition will keep the ISPs honest. Which might be true if competition were a thing:

[The FCC] argues that customers offered a two-speed internet will defect to other ISPs, and that beefed-up antitrust enforcement will prevent the worst offences. These are not strong arguments. Only half of American households have more than one ISP to choose from. Most of the rest are served by lazy duopolies.

[3] “Economic theory demonstrates.” Stop it, Ajit. You’re killing me!

APPENDIX: The Role of the Democrats

Ajit Pai, the FCC Commissioner leading the charge to rig the internet, was appointed by Obama. Wikipedia:

He has served in various positions at the FCC since being appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama in May 2012, at the recommendation of Mitch McConnell. He was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on May 7, 2012,[1] and was sworn in on May 14, 2012, for a five-year term.

Before his appointment to the FCC, Pai held positions with the Department of Justice, the United States Senate, the FCC’s Office of General Counsel, and Verizon Communications.

Another Flexian slithers through the revolving door. Obama no doubt asked McConnell for his very valuable opinion to maintain partisan balance among the FCC commissioners (one of those “norms” liberal Democrats are always yammering about). But actually:

Only three commissioners may be members of the same political party

In other words, Obama could have nominated a pro-Net Neutrality independent, and chose not to. When Trump was elected, he nominated Pai for FCC Chair, and that only happened because four Democrats — remember when Trump used to be a fascist? Good times — went along and helped him out. Politico:

DEMOCRATS FOR PAI? — FCC Chairman Ajit Pai locked down his reconfirmation Monday evening in a largely party-line 52-41 vote. But Pai did win votes from four of the six Democrats who voted in favor of last week’s procedural vote on his confirmation: Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)….

— So why did these four buck Democratic colleagues? “I disagree with him on net neutrality, but the president has a right to the chairman because he won the election,” McCaskill told John. “I have worked with him closely on the Lifeline issues and found him to be easy to work with on those issues — and he’s qualified.” [credentialism!] Peters echoed her on Pai’s qualifications and also cited his interest in working with Pai to address the Lifeline program./p>

— The senators like his broadband views. “I just need a lot of help in West Virginia, and he’s been moving in that direction,” former Commerce Committee member Manchin said, lauding Pai’s work in “trying to get the rural broadband fund moving.” Pai is “working with us,” Manchin said. Peters also mentioned rural broadband, singling out Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as an area in need: “I found him very receptive to ways to expand broadband access.” But like McCaskill, Manchin is “still very concerned about net neutrality,” as is Peters, they told POLITICO. Pai’s move to roll back net neutrality regulations dominated the Democrats’ opposition on the floor in the last week. Peters said he “will hold him accountable” and try to ensure “the internet is free and open.”

Uh huh. Let me know how that works out, Gary.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. DJG

    The ineffable Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.

    But their political careers will be salvaged by some occasional grandstanding about taxes or something. Meanwhile, when the cameras are off, they worship markets and auction off the commonwealth.

    Further from Wikipedia: “Pai attended Harvard University where he participated in the Harvard Speech & Parliamentary Debate Society.[13] He earned a B.A. with honors in Social Studies from Harvard in 1994 and a J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1997, where he was an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review and won the Thomas J. Mulroy Prize.[14]”

    So Pai is also part of the UChicago [™] old boys and old girls network. Undoubtedly a creature, too, of the execrable Law & Economics tendency at the law school there. I am reminded of some of the comments by Adolph Reed on the rise of people like Pai during class warfare.

    1. nonclassical

      …we pre-empted one youth from our area who intended attend U of Chicago econ, with Yves’ book Econned…he lasted one year, not being one to sit quietly…

  2. UserFriendly

    Only 3 members can be of the same party…. So upon the D term endings if Trump nominated two libertarians that would be fair game? I think there would be some protests and likely no confirmation in the senate.

  3. Chris

    Thank you Lambert. If ever there was a fight worth fighting…

    Here in Australia, we’ve been upgrading to fibre over last 7 years or so. Govt-owned corp is funding the network and anyone can buy bandwidth, or install it, and then retail a service offering to homeowners or businesses. I think I have around 100 companies that offer me internet.

    The Government foolishly degraded the plans of fibre to every home. Many regional areas got it, but the suburbs that benefited, like mine, were decisions made at the political level, and it didn’t hurt that our local Federal MP lived around the corner at the time.

    So my home has an optic fibre cable coming into my home. The rest get fibre to a box out in the street (each can do 400 homes) and the existing phone line then takes the signal the last distance to your house. There is a significant speed and capacity degradation for these customers, but they can still get decent streaming speeds.

    I had a couple of gos at getting a good ISP, finding that many were not buying enough bandwidth to serve their customers at peak times. My current one built their own fibre network, and I am getting over 20MBS, enough to stream over several devices and I don’t even notice a peak time.

    The only bit of the internet I can’t dial up and, hence, view content, is controlled by the content providers – which is their prerogative and a means to extract more of my consumer surplus. ie, my Netflix offering is not yours, unless I use a VPN.

    What a fudge you guys are going to get. US readership of NC would collapse. What are the MSM saying about this?

      1. Chris

        thank you RUK. At least it’s humans, mostly, misdirecting, turning a blind eye and lying through the lens of ‘news’.

        Soon cometh the news from your ‘local’ AI, so good, you’d swear they’d been written by a real person. And as your internet no longer works the way it did, you won’t know the difference.

        Only the ‘talent’ will have jobs, until they don’t.

        Off to play some golf, Happy Saturday to all

  4. yamahog

    I’d rather have a competitive market for internet service than a neutral net with a monopolist controlling my access – though it seems like we won’t get either. 5g wireless networks might be our salvation, but we’ll have to auction off more spectrum.

    I’m really dismayed to see how many people advocate for net neutrality while cheering the corporate censorship of communities like the daily stormer. The cloudflare CEO was tweeting about using his service to dial back Pai’s personal internet to 14 kbps. Most of the talking points around net neutrality seem willfully blind to the current corporate power over the internet or cheer it on because the tech companies seem to affirm the progressive stack order.

    1. Yves Smith

      I have to tell you, you are kidding yourself regarding your faith in markets. A “competitive market” could still engage in throttling of rates, tiered pricing, and censorship. Informal collusion is common. Adam Smith inveighed against it back in his day, how any time businessmen got together, they would scheme against workers and the public.

      1. yamahog

        You’re absolutely right, a competitive ISP market wouldn’t solve many of the issues around net neutrality. But under a sufficiently competitive ISP market, people would be getting something closer to what they want at lower prices.

        My grandparents, myself, and my younger brother all pay roughly the same amount for our internet and we all pay it to the same company. My grand parents use ~2 gb/month, I use ~50 gb/month, and my brother uses ~800 gb/month. By virtue of our consumption, we should be paying radically different amounts for our internet consumption. A competitive ISP market presumably would give consumers more choice in selecting the right amount of internet access for them.

        1. Propertius

          There’s nothing about net neutrality that prevents your ISP from billing you according to your bandwidth usage. It does prevent your ISP from discriminating based on content or source. It merely requires that a byte from Naked Capitalism be treated identically to a byte from Netflix or Instapundit.

          One can simultaneously support net neutrality (which is just a fancy way of describing the status quo on the internet since the old CSnet/NSFnet days) and still favor vigorous antitrust action against Google, FaceBorg, Twitter, CloudFlare, Amazon and others like them. They’re not mutually exclusive propositions.

          1. yamahog

            Well, net neutrality does make it harder for ISPs to tailor consumption with the bill – or convert to a usage based billing system. Some bytes are more expensive than others and net neutrality demands that they be treated the same, the ISP either has to choose between a worst case scenario for bandwidth (maybe bittorrenting from seeds / clients in India?) or simply offering the assortment of products we see now.

            I think net neutrality makes it harder to raise the capital to start an ISP – and one dimension of ISP competition could be different product offerings so in some indirect way, net neutrality might make it harder to discover the internet service equilibrium.

            1. redleg

              No- a bit is a bit. How many bits are required for something over a given time is bandwidth and has nothing to do with bits other than volume. The source, function, file type, destination, etc. is what neutrality is about

              Bandwidth is a pipe or channel. Net neutrality is about the what’s in the pipe, not the pipe.

            2. The_Wabbit

              “Some bytes are more expensive than others and net neutrality demands that they be treated the same…”
              No. This is wrong. A digital byte is exactly the same cost. What’s different is the content that ISPs/stations must pay through the nose for…this has nothing to do with the underlying bits and bytes. Also this notion that net neutrality makes starting an ISP -more- expensive…not sure where you got that upside down idea from. My own experience with startups (telco/internet) implies the opposite. At the first whiff of actual competition, the incumbents would pull out their political puppets to stand on that marvelous “market scale” in their favor…every…single…time. The startups, all packed up and headed abroad where their ideas and products had a chance. It’s not a coincidence that the top 5-8 US internet companies basically sell ads for huge chunks if not all of their actual INCOME.

      2. nonclassical


        Your – Lambert’s work will be only item internet we would truly miss…having only been oriented economics since 1990’s…

        TTIP was always intended create paywalls disguised as “proprietary”; net neutrality goes same, in usual bait and switch, imo…

    2. Massinissa

      The current status quo is definitely not perfect. But getting rid of Net Neutrality will result in an internet far worse than what we have now.

      1. yamahog

        I disagree with ‘far worse’. It’ll be different but we could wind up with a more level playing field where leftist ideas can be censored as easily as far right ideas and that’s a major win.

        I can’t imagine anti-capitalist messages getting too far off the ground when corporations control the internet to an even greater degree.

        1. Yves Smith

          You are delusional.

          1. The left has always been seen as more of a threat to America than the right. The only reason the right is being threatened a bit is A. Bannon is a populist and B. The MSM and Beltway types are all hair a fire that their unified stance for Clinton v. Trump didn’t work, and therefore Someone Must Be Blamed, since their complete out-of-touchness could not be the cause.

          2. You seriously look forward to a world where the right and left are censored?

          1. yamahog

            I absolutely look forward to a world with more censorship. It’d be so much better not to know about bad things.

        2. Massinissa

          Wait. Instead of the far right being censored less you want the left to be censored more?

          Are you serious? Most people don’t go around saying they are ‘pro censorship’.

    3. Altandmain

      The end result will be a cartel and in many places, an outright monopoly.

      Comcast is notorious for a reason. They have awful customer service, can randomly raise prices, and in many areas is the only ISP.

      Although far from perfect a tightly regulated market or an outright municipal owned company as an ISP would be a far better solution.

      1. yamahog

        By definition, any market that results in a cartel or a monopoly isn’t a competitive market.

        Though I agree that municipal ISPs are great and there should be more of them.

        1. Propertius

          The question is: who is going to provide the POP for that municipal ISP? It’s perfectly possible to have a municipal ISP whose access to the rest of the internet is still controlled by one of the major commercial players and might therefore still be the unwitting victim of that player’s throttling or surcharge policies.

        2. Allegorio

          That’s why Tennessee just passed a law banning municipal ISP’s. Chattanooga’s experiment was just too successful, I suppose. I live in one of the wealthiest counties in the country and yet I have only one ISP available to me, charges over $70/month for 1mps service. Some market. Oh yes, that is net neutrality’s fault right?

          When the Clinton’s passed the Telecommunications Act “reform” for their paymasters, they promised to wire the country with fiber optics. How did that work out? You “free market” types are such a joke. Oh yes competition good, because I am so much better than anyone else and can out compete them. Get over yourself.

      2. Jamie

        ‘Monopoly’ is a bad word, but not all monopolies are bad. Competition in commodifying the commons is not what we need. The article mentions the similarity in title II to treating the telecoms like utilities. Well they ought to be actual utilities. I’m old enough to remember Ma Bell and you will never convince me that we are better off now than we were then with a regulated monopoly for public communication services. So, of the two options “tightly regulated market” or “municipal owned company” I have no doubt which to prefer.

    4. JCC

      I don’t believe anyone is “willfully blind” about corporate power when it comes to the Internet.

      I don’t know where you live, but in the town I live in, there is one cable provider and they have the “franchise”. No one else is allowed in. Most small to medium sized towns are setup the same way.

      And many also know that somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 States will not allow City/Regionally owned Govt sponsored networks that are available to the general public due to heavy Corporate lobbying of those State Legislatures to put laws banning such networks in place.

      In other words, there is no competition available for almost all of flyover country. Even some of the bigger metro areas have very little effective competition.

      And, finally, if our US Airlines are any example (and they are), collusion is part and parcel of American Business Practices among the monopolies.

  5. ChrisPacific

    I recently placed an order from Amazon for something I couldn’t source locally. I am not a Prime member (I order maybe once a year from them so it wouldn’t make sense). Previously Amazon have always exceeded my expectations on delivery times, to the point where I don’t even bother checking estimates. Not this time. I placed the order on 31st October and started to wonder where it was. On checking the tracking info, I found that it had not yet shipped. That’s right, well over three weeks after the order Amazon have not yet got round to mailing it. This is an in-stock item sold by Amazon, not a third party seller.

    I next checked the delivery estimate on the order and was shocked to find that it was from 21 Nov to 26 Dec. So I have another four weeks before it can even be considered late. More fool me for not noticing that at order time, I guess, but I’ve never needed to in the past. The contrast with the service that Amazon provided as recently as a few years ago is staggering.

    Doing a bit of digging, I found this and a number of similar articles:

    Amazon Shipping Has Gotten Slower For Non-Prime Members

    So there you have it. Rent extraction based on market dominance, with degraded service for anyone not willing to pay up. This is presumably exactly what ISPs and large content providers would like to do in the Internet space if they get their way.

    1. fresno dan

      November 24, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      I have found exactly the same thing with regard to Amazon shipping times. I was always amazed at how fast things got to me, especially small, inexpensive things – it just seemed like it didn’t make economic sense.
      But I have never been in a hurry for most things, and we pay for shipping one way or the other. I am perfectly willing to make the trade off of a longer wait for a cheaper price. I remember an article I read about Amazon’s research on shipping fees, and how charging even 1 dollar had profound affects on the volume of sales.
      “Rent extraction based on market dominance, with degraded service for anyone not willing to pay up.”
      I would amend that to paying more for degraded service ….quality service at almost any price is long gone in “Merica.

    2. Yves Smith

      The message is: Don’t shop with Amazon!

      The most I use Amazon for is to place orders with Amazon merchants, and only then when I can’t find the merchandise elsewhere (no joke, this does happen, latest case was with some Bodum filter replacements).

      1. ChrisPacific

        I try to do it as little as possible these days after learning more about the problems with them. Generally I will use them for things I can’t source locally (living in a small country in the middle of nowhere, this is a large category) and when I can’t easily find other sources online. This was one such example. When I lived in the US I used to buy this item in person from Sears, but they seem to be in their death throes at present (I suspect PE vultures were involved).

        I will dig around some more the next time, but when you’re short on time and you know Amazon will probably have it in stock, it can be very tempting (although now that I know I could be in for a 2 month wait, it’s worth investing much more effort in finding alternatives).

        Another thing I forgot to mention: they are really pushing Prime on customers right now, to the point of using malware-style tactics (asking you multiple times, making the no button as hard to spot as possible, moving it around, disguising it as other things, etc.) I almost felt like I needed to run a virus scan after visiting their site.

  6. drumlin woodchuckles

    One wonders if “folksy terminology” for these various internet-management approaches might reach more people and provide more “ways in” for understanding the issues.

    Phrases like Free and Equal Internet or Open Internet or Fair Internet or Free Range Organic Internet as against . . .
    Lockdowned Internet, Hogtied Branded Internet, Confined Feedlot Internet, etc.

    Internet Jail. ” Go straight to Internet Jail. Do not pass Internet Go. Do not collect Freedom of Internet.”

    Words and phrases like this might clarify huge chunks of the Mass Mind for officeseekers to reach and rally as they run on passing laws restoring Freedom of Internet, Internet Fairness, the Free-Range Organic Internet, etc.

    Just some thoughts . . .

  7. Kurtismayfield

    The Trump Administration says it plans to ignore public comments, which would seem to open up the ruling to a procedural challenge by anyone who had standing.

    This is the part that really puzzles me. What happens when Netflix decides not to pay the bribe to the ISP’s for “fastlane” and takes them to court, showing that Hulu (which is owned partly by Comcast and Time Warner) was not made to do so?? Or that Hulu’s content is prioritized??

    If they truly wanted this change to be permanent why leave yourself open to such a challenge? Unless the goal is not really to kill net neutrality, but to create another issue to be decided by the courts.

    1. flora

      “create another issue to be decided by the courts.”

      Possibly so. From ArsTechnica

      AT&T and Comcast lawsuit has nullified a city’s broadband competition law
      Bad news for Google Fiber: Nashville utility pole ordinance invalidated by judge.

      AT&T and Comcast have convinced a federal judge to nullify an ordinance that was designed to bring more broadband competition to Nashville, Tennessee.

      1. flora

        IoT of industrial devices and real time data exchange is another business process that would be affected by throttling.

        From Network World:

        Attempts to leverage the new rules might not have be so blatant, though. A carrier might simply tell a company like GE that if it wants guaranteed prompt delivery of the data from its industrial IoT devices, it will have to upgrade to a higher — read, more expensive — tier of service to ensure the required service levels.

        Given the high stakes, a company the size of GE might be willing go along. But smaller businesses — especially those upstart IoT startups with the cool new ideas might — not be able to afford to pay the freight for premium net access. So, the data from its IoT devices might not be delivered for analysis in a timely fashion … or at all.

  8. Daryl

    > Yes, the “\n” was really there.

    For reference, “\n” is a character sequence used in most programming languages to insert a new line in a string. A pretty strong indicator that the comment was pulled from some programmatic source and not properly processed, as if one needed any more.

    One thing that bothers me about these “Russian bot” articles is the implicit suggestion that because the comments originated from a Russian IP, it must have been perpetrated by Russians. Any self-respecting script kiddie is going to use proxies, probably computers that have been compromised by some sort of malware, in order to obscure his location. And I find myself wondering if Russian addresses in particular have become a popular intermediary for these kind of hijinks *because* the press will then blame it on those wily Russians without mentioning that the attacks could have originated from, say, Washington, D.C.

    1. Synoia

      “Net Neutrality Removal” It is, as usual, a rent extraction scheme.

      The NET is a classic example of the commons, created by the people, but to be seconded, seized, by private interests for profit purposes.

  9. Oregoncharles

    We’re on an actual local (wireless) ISP. there happen to be several here. I’m guessing that local businesses will be much more responsive to consumer wishes than, say, Verizon.

    It might be time to start looking for local alternatives – or, for the rare few who would be able to do this, starting one might be a good bet.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Local ISP GWI in Maine has already publicly spoken out against many of the egregious practices the feds and state government have imposed or are trying to. Not everyday that you see a US company arguing against something they stand to make more money from.

      I do not work for or have any financial interest in this company but would highly recommend that anyone in the area who can use their service do so.

  10. Altandmain

    I have become increasingly convinced that society needs a state owned enterprise for providing affordable, reliable, and yes, high bandwidth with net neutrality internet to the public.

    Left unchecked, companies will just become rent seekers and milk their customers dry. That is why the rich always push to privatize public services.

    This FCC chair, Ajit Pai, is little more than a corporate mouthpiece and lobbyist giving the corporate interests what they want to milk society.

    Likewise, the mask of democracy is starting to come off with the FCC’s indication that they are not going to be listening to public feedback. A while back, there was the Princeton Democracy Study. Public opinion has no effect on policy.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      How about a public utility instead of a State owned enterprise for Internet? It’s a much easier dream to realize. All we need are Public Utility Commissions that serve the public. Besides isn’t our Uncle already too deep in our shorts and too easily so without giving him total control?

  11. Andrew Watts

    When can we start blaming capitalist swine for ruining the internet? The commercialization of the internet probably made this outcome inevitable at some point. What’s ironic is that as marketers begin to realize the utter futility of online advertising they will increasingly cut more of that money from their budgets. If or rather when that happens the internet is going to suffer a dire maintenance crisis unless the government steps in to provide massive subsidies and treat it as public infrastructure.

    It doesn’t seem like the internet is going to continue to exist in it’s present form much longer.

    Ajit Pai, the FCC Commissioner leading the charge to rig the internet, was appointed by Obama.

    This tidbit of information is helpful. I haven’t stopped blaming Obama for giving us Trump.

  12. Vatch

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai locked down his reconfirmation Monday evening in a largely party-line 52-41 vote. But Pai did win votes from four of the six Democrats who voted in favor of last week’s procedural vote on his confirmation: Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)….

    If the vote had been 48-41, Pai still would have been confirmed. Here’s an example where the vote was 49-47 (the confirmation of the very bad nomination of William Wehrum to be Assistant EPA Administrator):

  13. Propertius

    The Internet was created as this network where, where there were no gatekeepers. Essentially, anyone who goes online can connect with everyone else online.And that’s given rise to all sorts of innovation, it’s allowed political organizers, and racial justice advocates to use this tool to contact people, to organize, to get their message out.

    And stopping that is most assuredly a feature, not a bug.

    When discussing the neutrality issue with my right-wing friends, I often point out to them that abolishing net neutrality would give the owners of CNN (Time Warner) and MSNBC (Comcast) the ability to determine whether (or how well) they could connect to the Fox News website. That’s usually pretty persuasive.

  14. Carolinian

    A couple of points

    –First of all the current internet is already like cable tv in that everyone pays the same rate whether it’s a granny who only uses it for email or a video fanatic who downloads terabytes of content. There used to be lower cost, limited speed plans available but those have gone away because the internet is now largely supplied by the same people who supply cable tv and they like the simpler one size fits all system just fine. Which is to say the “digital divide” is real, and while the above complains about theoretical harms there are people who don’t have internet at all–much less censored internet–because of the cost. There is a government subsidy available but I believe you have to be on food stamps to get it–in other words really poor.

    –Which leads to the second point which is that, unlike true common carriers, there’s an almost total lack of government regulation of any type other than the usual truth in advertising restrictions. The only reason we don’t already have all the horrors described above is that the internet suppliers are making a great deal of money off the current arrangements and don’t want to piss off their cash cow customers by doing things they know they won’t like. It has been said that the biggest cost of business for cable companies is customer acquisition and that’s why people trying to be shed of Comcast and others will spend ages on the phone arguing with customer reps trying to talk you out of it.

    Net neutrality is of course important and Congress needs to step in, but given all the cash sloshing around that seems unlikely. Still I don’t think we should jump to the conclusion that internet providers are like the phone monopoly of yore–the one that was famously satirized by Lily Tomlin. People do still have some choices.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Where I live I have two choices for ISP both priced remarkably the same — well three when I add the null choice which of course doesn’t cost much. I don’t feel much like I “do still have some choices.” What am I missing?

  15. MG

    This might be an acceptable policy change if most American households had at least 3 or 4 ISPs to choose from at their home for broadband service.

    Instead most American households don’t even have a single choice.

    We are taking the 21st century utility of the future and severely curtailing further adoption because of wanton greed & utter stupidity from a policy perspective standpoint.

    One of my more cynical colleagues argues that as long as the TV and Internet are widely available, it will keep enough Americans inside and placated. Maybe this has some wild unintended consequences.

  16. JBird

    I am going to see when Mr Anjit “Paid” Pai gets paid, and since most of whole States either lack broadband at all, or it is so slow and overpriced it might as well not; if this wonderful example of “free market capitalism” actually was as described that would not be.

    I remember my high school and college textbooks explaining all this. Economic Neoliberalism was not accepted. It’s interesting to read some of the history of the creation of trusts, monopolies, vertical integration, and so on, and the fights against them, then see it happening a century later.

    Can anyone tell what the current high school texts say, now that the Gospel of Free Market Capitalism has had a few more decades to spread?

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      (usual caveats re: tiny wilderness town apply)
      until he retired a couple of years ago, the semester of “economics” at the local ISD was taught by a rabid teabilly ideologue who(no kidding!) printed all of his classroom material from the Heritage Foundation, and never even opened the (bland, anodyne) textbook.
      he also taught “civics”(using Federalist Society materials)….and I was shocked to learn that none of my highschool waitresses at the time had ever heard of the First or Fourth Amendments.
      per the Caveat, this may not be representative of even Texas as a whole, but it was certainly shocking to me.
      the New Guy is considered a “Liberal” by the local yokels…which means, I suspise, that he is a Centrist Dem. It IS an improvement, however.

      1. Vatch

        I was shocked to learn that none of my highschool waitresses at the time had ever heard of the First or Fourth Amendments. . . .

        That is shocking. They probably knew about the Second Amendment.

  17. JimTan

    Killing net neutrality might also make online online browsing more expensive depending on where you live. Internet Service Providers transmit internet data over the last mile to customers homes. There are also Tier-1 and Tier-2 companies that own the physical internet backbone lines allowing Internet transmission between cities and states.

    If these players get in the mix, the result could include a long distance pricing model.

  18. The Rev Kev

    The origins of the internet lay in a military communications network that needed to work even when subjected to a nuclear attack so that command and control would still function. Thus if several centers were damaged or destroyed, the communications would recognize these blocked channels and would flow around these centers to eventually get to their original destination. What if net neutrality come into use in the US and the internet as a whole decided to regard the US as a damaged center and started to reroute around the US. Expensive yes but maybe better that than having your speeds throttled by going through the US.
    If you want to know what the new internet would look like, Portugal uses it and at you can see the options that you can choose from. How will smaller American businesses survive if their speeds are throttled back? You are actually talking about real damage to smaller businesses that will have to slow down US economic growth. For the richer portion of the US, this may work out well as they can afford it but for the other 80% I am willing to bet that they will end up paying more for their internet than the other 20%.
    The original robber barons usually were located along the Rhine river and robbed merchants, land travelers, and river traffic. They might rob cargoes, steal entire ships, or kidnap for ransom. They threatened commercial traffic along the river until they were eventually destroyed and the barons hanged. The new robber barons are now seeking to wedge themselves astride the flow of information rather than a flow of water but the effect will be the same. There will be blowback and of that you can be sure.

  19. Jason Boxman

    For what it’s worth, the \ n denotes a newline in a variety of different programming languages. Someone obviously screwed up.

  20. Rates

    The only thing I care about is: will this torpedo the Internet Giants? I support whichever proposal that would do that.

    1. ABasLesAristocrates

      Nope. That’s why they stopped fighting. Google et al. have decided they’re big enough to pay whatever bill the ISPs slap them with, so now they pay lip service to neutrality (to keep from being crucified by their customers) and quietly wait for Mr. Pai to put their current and future competitors out of business.

  21. Jeremy Grimm

    I tried to wade through some of the FCC’s little 210 page paper on “freeing the Internet” referenced through the link to [] I arrived at through the link at “Americans are spending Thanksgiving fighting for net neutrality” — just above Lambert’s “Notes” section.

    That document is a real piece of work. I focused my attention on the cost-benefit analysis of “Paid Prioritization” [p. 139 — items 249-258. Each page is half footnotes or more and most of those footnotes wrap back to earlier sections that have footnotes wrapping forward and when you can locate one of the many references to the economics literature supporting the FCC’s decision to end net neutrallity they seem relatively obscure to me — boosting several hundred downloads or less.

    I was impressed with: “We find that antitrust law, in combination with the transparency rule we adopt, is particularly well-suited to addressing any potential or actual anticompetitive harms that may arise from paid prioritization arrangements.” [257. Addressing harms: p. 147]. How quaint.

    The FCC found that eliminating the ban on paid prioritization for Internet service would: “increase network innovation” — “encourage the entry of new edge providers into the market” — increase economic efficiency, … benefiting consumer welfare — increase network investment — “Last-mile access is not a zero-sum game” so pooh pooh to “neglecting or downgrading non-paid traffic” never happen! — could lead to lower prices for consumers — close the digital divide — and
    “We find that antitrust law, in combination with the transparency rule we adopt, is particularly well-suited to addressing any potential or actual anticompetitive harms that may arise from paid prioritization arrangements.”

    And just to offer a taste of the flavor of this FCC-Circ1712-04
    “Lastly, antitrust laws would not prevent an ISP from exercising legally-acquired market power to earn market rents, so long as it is not used anticompetitively, but we do not consider any harms that might result from this to be so large as to justify the harms that a total prohibition on paid prioritization would entail. For harms from exercising legally-acquired market power to arise, the ISP must have market power over the edge provider.”

    This document should be embarrassing to someone.

  22. Jeremy Grimm

    FCC’s “freeing the Internet” FCC-Circ1712-04 also contained this factoid —
    Item 252. Efficiency:
    “… with high-bandwidth applications such as Netflix, which in the first half of 2016 generated more than a third of all North American Internet traffic.”

    With no action by the FCC it wouldn’t take many Netflix-like bandwidth hogs to bring the Internet to its knees severely affecting all users, applications, and content providers. Also without some action by the FCC to compel investment by the ISPs we’d reach the same loggerheads as more and more users, applications, and content providers jump aboard the Internet. This does strike me as something of a problem which requires some new FCC rules — but tossing out the Internet neutrality baby with this bathwater is hardly justified and trusting to the Market is plainly insane.

    1. Yves Smith

      Sorry, I have a good friend who is a very highly skilled IT professional who also ran an ISP. He said the claims by ISPs that they are bandwidth constrained and need to meter or throttle bandwidth are hogwash.

      1. Winston Smith

        I can concur to this as I am ALSO a highly skilled IT professional, at least my employer thinks so , who USED to own a small ISP (dial-up, DSL, direct connect) that claims by these giant ISPs are bandwidth constrained are horse hockey!

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          I’m only reporting what I read in the FCC-Circ1712-04 which as I understand the matter contains the FCCs justifications for eliminating net neutrality, as well as endless definitions of legal terms to fit the end of net neutrality onto their legal bed of Procrustes. If the claim I referenced is false it would hardly be a great surprise given my assessment of the section of the circular which I read.

          As for the opinions of highly skilled IT professionals — actually I was also an IT professional before I retired — maybe I wasn’t so highly skilled — however:

          The Internet backbone is bandwidth limited, its bandwidth is not infinite. The Internet “last-mile” has more limited bandwidth than the backbone. Some “last-mile” solutions are more bandwidth limited than others. I believe it costs more to bring optical fiber to the curbside than to set up wireless portals to distribute connectivity in the “last-mile” — a solution Verizon seems to favor. As a user — sometimes served by Comcast sometimes Verizon — [have to wonder what happened to the competition we were promised] I have experienced what certainly seemed like a limited bandwidth — particularly during Friday evenings.

          Sorry — I conclude the Internet is bandwidth limited — deliberately so — with the bottleneck placed at the last mile. The ISPs have been squeezing users for years. The present efforts to eliminate net neutrality would let them strangle the application and content providers. The FCC solution to the “last-mile” problem — the Market — allowed the big ISPs extract exorbitant rents from users and create a bottleneck which is definitely bandwidth limited. Can some application or content providers hog that limited bandwidth in the last mile? I think that might be case. So I think we might have problem.

          One solution to the problem — the Market — will prove every bit as disastrous for the Internet as it has been for our economy. Another solution — controlling the Internet as a public utility and maintaining Internet neutrality suggests the FCC must mandate fatter last mile solutions, set fairer prices for service, and demand service provision to rural and underserved areas.

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        I would use a stronger word than “hogwash”. This push to end net neutrality makes me very angry.

  23. Antoine LeBear

    If net neutrality goes down, why would only the ISPs be interested? Backbone operators, or other big movers of bits would be too if I’m to guess correctly. They too would want a piece of the cake (because it’s all about creating a new cake based on rent extraction possibilities, right?).
    Once you get there, because the big operators are from the US, and because a lot of the bits are passing through the US, the whole world would be affected by this decision (especially us noth of the border – and we already have our photogenic prime minister alarmed). But this would also cause a massive blowback. So I dunno. It seems like unworkable in the long term. Especially since the US seems to have the most to lose in case of a fragmenting internet, which would be the case if this goes unchallenged, with the EU creating their own internet, etc.

  24. flora

    End of Net Neutrality will be good for lawyers.

    From Network World:

    Every conceivable new theory about how one organization should have priority will ensue, and the courts will be clogged deciding the outcome. Today, the principle is simple: all traffic gets the same priority, and multimedia can have isochronous priority, but it’s not guaranteed.

    Without net neutrality, we will enter an era where ISPs, telcos, carriers and interconnects will all demand that THEIR traffic has priority, and yours does not—unless you pay. Let the litigation begin, and the courts glow in the dark in an attempt to sort out what theories of law now hold sway. Insert wallet, here.

  25. KFritz

    Here in California, Kamala Harris sent out email inviting recipients to sign a petition against Mr. Pay’s planned rollback. After clicking on the “Add Your Name” button, instead of a message confirming the submission, there’s a click-through to a request for a contribution to an entity called “Act Blue,” but with Senator Harris’ letterhead at the top of the page. The Senator and her staff have their priorities in order!

    1. The Rev Kev

      Hmm. Sounds more like it is DNC inspired. Hijack any movement that is popular and use it to make a grab for cash while simultaneously short-circuiting that very same movement. Sound familiar?

  26. Meher Baba Fan

    Protonmail of Switzerland established a VPN service precisely in response to this issue. Apparently it can mitigate most of the issues. I dont use Protonmail but they are said to be extraordinarily competent at everything they handle. they have some blog posts about this situation.Bare in mind a reliable trustworthyVPN is hard to find. Protonmail have a reputation. They are also committed to providing free ( no cost); components to all their services.

  27. Wade Riddick

    Ending net neutrality introduces a dual pricing structure allowing a public utility to charge both those receiving data and those shipping data across the network. When the railroads charged both ends of the transaction this way, it created perverse incentives to reduce rail capacity. That way they got to save money on investment and since both ends were bidding against each other, reducing capacity limited supply and raised prices resulting in a twofer. This is part of what led to the Granger backlash and the ICC.

    Can someone supply me with a reference to the original academic work in political economy that first noted how this type of dual charging creates incentives to reduce network capacity?

  28. Lune

    Actually this is worse than cable in one very important way: cable pays the channels it carries a monthly fee (eg espn, CNN, etc). So of your $100 cable bill, maybe $70 goes to the actual content creators ie the channels.

    The current plan of ISPs is to have the net channels (ie Netflix, Facebook, etc) pay *them* for the privilege of accessing their subscribers.

    This is the dream scenario for ISPs: you pay $10/month to Netflix, plus $10/month to Comcast to access Netflix through their network, plus Netflix pays $1/month to Comcast to send data to you.

    My only hope is that this may backfire. Nothing stops Netflix from saying they won’t send data to Comcast subscribers unless Comcast pays them; at the end of the day, it’s content that’s important, not the pipe it’s delivered through. then the power shifts, and we may see ISPs long for the day when they got paid for the tubes while content owners had to give their content away for free…

    1. redleg

      Personally, the whole music/video streaming and sharing issue for artists could be solved by charging a licensing fee for internet access. That fee goes to the Performing Rights Organization (BMI, ASCAP, etc. for musicians) for distribution to the artist by their respective formulas. Voila! No more music piracy.

      But that has little to do with net neutrality.

  29. MichaelSF

    My local ISP,, supports Net Neutrality (and customer privacy too).

    For less than I was paying Earthlink for many years for occasionally erratic 1.5-3.0 MBPS DSL for the last year and a half I have had Sonic’s own uncapped 1GB (both up and down) fiber into my residence.

    The thing I’ve noticed about gigabit service is that a lot of the servers on the far end seem to be pretty slow. The other day I downloaded an update for some CAD software and was surprised/pleased when the 360+MB file was downloaded in about 4 seconds. Other than running a speed test that’s the only time I can think of where I saw a download take full advantage of the available speed.

  30. Harry Shearer

    In the internet’s early days, I, and many others, reached it through small independent ISP’s. Mine went out of biz, and I reluctantly switched to big providers. But as this Detroit experience shows (, it’s not exactly NASA stuff to set up an ISP. And now, unlike the early days, if the FCC has its way, small independent ISP’s have a valuable selling point–“we don’t mess with your Internet”. Can the big guys stop them?

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