The FCC is planning new net neutrality rules. And they could enshrine pay-for-play. - The Washington Post

Matthew Petach mpetach at
Sun Apr 27 18:44:34 UTC 2014

On Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 5:15 AM, Patrick W. Gilmore <patrick at>wrote:

> Anyone afraid what will happen when companies which have monopolies can
> charge content providers or guarantee packet loss?
> In a normal "free market", if two companies with a mutual consumer have a
> tiff, the consumer decides which to support. Where I live, I have one
> broadband provider. If they get upset with, say, a streaming provider, I
> cannot choose another BB company because I like the streaming company. I
> MUST pick another streaming company, as that is the only thing I can
> "choose".

[I speak only for myself here; any use of the word "we"
should be taken to represent only my sense of inclusion
with the rest of humanity, and not with any commercial
entity or organization.  Any other characterization of the
following words is patently incorrect, and grounds for
possible actions, up to and including litigation.  Please
don't be an ass, and quote me out of context, or as
representing something I'm not.  Original post edited
slightly, with specific entity names replaced with
variables; you may do your own substitution back
into the variables as you feel appropriate.  --MNP]

What if we turn the picture around slightly, and look
at it like the negotiations between broadcast networks
and cable companies?  2010's battle between Fox television
and  cablevision comes to mind, where the content holder
blacked out access to their content for specific cable
companies unless they agree to pay the demanded fees.

It would be interesting to have seen $content_CEO take a
hard line stance; it wouldn't be hard to send a BGP feed
to video streaming servers, and if the requestor's IP was
from a prefix seen behind AS$foo, put up a message
informing the subscriber that their access to $company's
content would cease on such-and-such a date, due
to $BB_provider's unwillingness to agree to increase
interconnect capacity, and that if subscribers wished
to continue to see $company's content, they should consider
switching to a different network provider.  Basically,
follow the same model News Corp used against
Cablevision, Viacom used against Time Warner,
or Disney used against Cablevision.

How long would $BB_provider be able to hold out against
the howls of its users, if there was a scrolling
banner across the top of the screen during their
favorite show, or favorite movie alerting them that
they would soon be unable to see that content
unless they switched to a different service provider?

It's easy to forget that the sword can be swung both
ways.   Right now, $BB_provider is swinging the sharp edge
at $content; but $content is not without its own influence in
the market, and could swing the sword the other way,
cutting back at $BB_provider.  Yes, it comes at some great
risk to $content, in terms of potential customer loss; but
no great wins come without great risks (unless you
cheat, and use the government to get you a big win
at no risk--but none of us like that model).

I think it's high time for content players to flex their
power, and push back on the eyeball networks that
attempt to use their customer base as hostages to
extract additional revenue from the content being
requested by their users.  If the content providers
simply make it clearly visible to the end users that
they cannot watch the requested content on that
network, or that they can only watch in reduced
resolution from that network, it will have a two-fold
effect: a) traffic volume from the content provider
to the contentious network will be reduced, limiting
the need for the upgrades in the first place, and
b) customers of the provider will be informed of
their status as hostage cannon fodder on the
battlefield, allowing them to vote with their wallets.
One could potentially even insert suggestions
for alternate connectivity options they might
consider into the content feed, to help the
users vote with their wallets more easily.
Or, provide the phone number of the local
municipal office that granted the franchise
rights to the BB provider, along with instructions
on what to say when calling ("Hi--I'm a registered
voter in your district.  If you'd like to get re-elected
next term, you need to repeal the cable franchise
agreement with broadband provider such-and-so,
as their monopolistic practices are hampering
my ability to freely choose what content I can

We're not powerless in this fight.  We often take
a victim mindset, and look for some other entity
to rescue us; but that's not the right way to thrive.
Instead of thinking that we're weak, we're victims,
and can't protect ourselves, or that we need some
other big, strong entity to shelter and protect us,
we need to realize that we *are* strong.  We *are*
capable of standing up and fighting back.  We *do*
have power, and can say no to the bullies.

They want us to feel we have no say in the matter,
that we cannot survive without protection.

But they are wrong.

We are strong.
We are capable.
We *can* fight back.

For example, in Patrick's case (he being a Bostonian
still, I believe), the municipal cable office responsible
for the cable franchises in the city are handled by:

> How is this good for the consumer? How is this good for the market?
> --
> patrick
> Composed on a virtual keyboard, please forgive typos.
I don't think it's good for the consumer or the market;
but I also don't think it's just up to the government to
step in and try to protect the consumer and the market.
There's a lot we can do to shape the outcome, if we
just step up to the plate and make our voices (and our
wallets) heard.

We are not victims.

We *are* the market.

Never forget; we have given them the power they
currently have.
And that means we can take it away again.

It won't be easy.

It won't be painless.

But it *can* be done.


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