[Cryptography] Standards Trolls: Re: net neutrality

Christian de Larrinaga cdel at firsthand.net
Thu Feb 11 12:08:40 EST 2021

On Mon 04 Jan 2021 at 02:48, John Gilmore <gnu at toad.com> wrote:

> (This is off-topic for rants about bitbux, but it's also such a poorly
>  understood bit of 1990's Internet history, even among cypherpunks, that
>  it may be worth one explanatory message.)
> Ismail Kizir <ikizir at gmail.com> wrote:
>> When I saw this message, I decided to be "more concrete", put a real life
>> problem example, and then to continue to follow.
>> Here is one:
>> USA, has "suspended" net neutrality for years for its institutions.
>> Now, they may go back to standard net neutrality, or not!
>> Today USA, tomorrow Turkey, China, Russia, England, France ...
> It turns out that your concrete example is based on sand.
> The USA never had "network neutrality" before it was "suspended".  What
> the USA had was 3,000 ISPs.  So if an ISP did something unfriendly to
> its customers, they could just stop paying the bad one, and sign up with
> a different ISP that wouldn't screw them.  That effectively prevented
> bad behavior among ISPs.  And if the customer couldn't find an ISP that
> wouldn't screw them, they could START ONE THEMSELVES.  I know, because
> we did exactly that in the 1990s.
> Anyone could start an ISP because by law, everyone had tariffed access
> to the same telco infrastructure (dialup phone lines, and leased lines
> at 56 kbit/sec or 1.544 Mbit/sec or 45 Mbit/sec).  You just called up
> the telco and ordered it, and they sent out techs and installed it.
> We did exactly that, plugged it into our modems and routers and bam,
> we were an ISP:  "The Little Garden".
> Later, DSL lines required installing equipment in telco central offices,
> at the far end of the wire that leads to your house.  But the telcos
> were required by the FCC to allow competing companies to do that.  Their
> central office buildings were 9/10th empty anyway, after they had
> replaced racks of mechanical relays with digital computers.
> The telcos figured this out, and decided they'd rather be gatekeepers,
> instead of being the regulated monopoly that gets a fixed profit margin.
> Looking ahead, they formally asked the FCC to change its rule that
> telcos had to share their infrastructure with everybody -- but only for
> futuristic optical fibers.  They whined that "FCC wants us to deploy
> fiber everywhere, but we won't, unless we get to own it and not share it
> with our competitors."  As usual, the regulated monopoly was great at
> manipulating the public interest regulators.  The FCC said, "Sure, keep
> your fibers unshared."  This ruling never even mentioned the Internet,
> it is all about the physical infrastructure.  If the physical stuff is
> wires, regulated telcos have to share it; if it's glass, they don't.
> The speed of dialup maxed out at 56 kbit/sec.  DSL maxed out at a couple
> of megabits.  Leased lines worked to 45 Mbit/sec but cost thousands of
> dollars per month.  Anything over that speed required fiber, not wire,
> at typical distances.  As demand for higher Internet speeds arose, any
> ISP who wanted to offer a faster connection couldn't just order one from
> the telco, because the telco fibers were now private and unshared.  If
> you want a fiber-based Internet connection now, you can't buy it from
> anybody except the guys who own the fibers -- mostly the telcos.  Most
> of the 3,000 ISPs could only offer slow Internet access, so everybody
> stopped paying them.  The industry consolidated down to just one or a
> few businesses per region -- mostly the telcos themselves, plus the
> cable companies that had build their own local monopoly via city
> government contracts.  Especially lucky regions had maybe one other
> competitor, like a Wireless ISP, or an electrical co-op that ran fibers
> on its infrastructure.
> So now if your ISP becomes nasty to you, censoring your traffic or
> slowing it down for their own benefit, you have nowhere else you could
> buy Internet service from.  You can pay a cable company to screw you, or
> pay a telco to screw you.  What held them back in the '90s was that
> anybody could start honest competition.  They manipulated the regulators
> to mostly prevent competition in high speed Internet.  So now they can
> do what more or less what they want, or what they think they can get
> away with.  (For example, I once got AT&T fiber installed to my house;
> their required gateway box refused to pass my traffic unless I
> click-signed a contract of adhesion that was hundreds of pages that it
> wouldn't even let me read.  I read enough of the few accessible pages to
> know that it let AT&T screw me and my Internet traffic about seven
> different ways.  I refused to sign it and had them take out the fiber.)
> The telcos' elimination of fiber based competition, and nothing else,
> was the end of so-called "network neutrality".  The rest was just
> activists, regulators and legislators blathering.  There never was an
> enforceable federal regulatory policy of network neutrality, so the FCC
> could hardly suspend it.  If the FCC actually wanted US customers to
> have a choice of ISPs, they would rescind the FIBER RULE.  And if
> advocates actually understood how only competition, not regulation,
> restrains predatory behavior, they would ask FCC for the fiber rule to
> be rescinded, so a small ISP company could rent the actual glass fiber
> that runs from the telco to (near or inside) your house, for the actual
> cost plus a regulated profit.  Then customers could get high speed
> Internet from a variety of vendors at a variety of prices and terms.  So
> far neither has happened.
> 	John
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Christian de Larrinaga 

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