DoJ slams net neutrality, says all packets not created equal

Looks like the big money men got to the Justice Department -- today, the DoJ said ISPs should be allowed to charge higher fees for "priority" traffic on the internet. This is supremely bad news.
The agency told the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing high-speed Internet practices, that it is opposed to "Net neutrality," the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user.
Link to Associated Press item.

Here is the full text of the DoJ statement: Link, subtitle is "Antitrust Division Says Regulatory Proposals Could Limit Consumer Choice and Deter Network Investment." (Thanks, Gary in Florida, and many others)


  1. Well, someone in the government had to pay the service providers back for letting them tap the switches, right?

  2. Well, I for one have felt that ‘net neutrality’ may not in the long run be viable for purely economic reasons, though obviously the potential for abuse is there.
    Many services actually need to be given higher priority in order to operate properly, and by forcing ISPs or other service providers to treat all packets the same, we are in effect forcing them to overprovision their bandwidth (ie, buy a bigger pipe) when they otherwise might not need to do so. This in turn would result in all services being more expensive than they otherwise would be.
    Put another way, the internet works pretty well without very much legislation. Do we really want the government involved? I’m not so sure.
    Of course, the potential for abuse is there, so if net neutrality ultimately falls (and I suspect it will) then we have to vigorously pursue any censorship cases and whatnot.

  3. Well, I guess the only good news is that the Gonzales Justice Department is so discredited that no one will take them seriously….

  4. “The Department stated that precluding broadband providers from charging content and application providers directly for faster or more reliable service “could shift the entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers.” If the average consumer is unwilling or unable to pay more for broadband Internet access, the result could be to reduce or delay critical network expansion and improvement.”

    My understanding of economic theory is pretty lax so maybe I’m missing something here, but this makes it sound as if somehow the consumers won’t ultimately bear the burden of “implementing costly network expansions and improvements” anyway. Do they think the “content and application providers” aren’t going to find a way to pass along the additional charges to their customers?

  5. It is nice to see the DoJ chime in with some political and financial opinions.

    Wait a second… they’re the Department of Justice. They should be issuing legal opinions. WHY are they sticking their nose so far to give a political opinion on a public policy matter?

    Something smells wrong here.

  6. Finally. I got an account. A quick summary of my anonymous rant that’ll eventually make it to this site:

    90% of what I read in the DoJ’s statement is a political opinion.
    10% of what I read in the DoJ’s statement is a legal opinion.

    WHAT is the DoJ doing, chiming in on public policy matters with political opinions?

  7. “could shift the entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers.”

    I think we ALREADY paid for the costly network expansions with the $200Billion taxpayer subsidy that was SUPPOSED to pay for fiber to the home.

  8. What i believe this may come down to is one provider deprioritizing almost everything from other providers and countries by default, this will probably have an impact on voip, text messaging and phone calls both cellular and land line

  9. To be honest, I don’t object to an ISP charging more for priority handling of traffic. What I object to is them wanting to charge someone else extra for traffic I’ve requested and that I’m already paying my ISP to handle (if I’m not, then what is that bill my ISP sends me every month for?).

  10. The DoJ need to ask one and only one question:
    “What do the American people want done with this?”.

    That seems to be the absolute last question being asked by any branch of our lovely government these days.

  11. The argument that the market will regulate itself is flawed in my opinion because consumers do not have a choice of which providers to use.

    If there were many providers, I could simply choose to use a provider whose traffic policies I would accept. However given the lines are in control of a single company, there is no room for multiple providers.

    Where I live I have only 2 reasonable choices for internet, Time-Warner for Cable, and AT&T for DSL. With only two companies I do not believe that there is meaningful competition.

    For this reason I think that Internet should be considered a utility and be regulated, rather than being consisdered a free market service. (although I think that the regulation should probably happen on a state level, rather than the federal level.)

  12. Unfortunately, it seems if this ever gets into a real public debate the issue wil be clouded with concerns over “regulating the market” when in fact it is a Free Speech issue; and in this regard the DoJ should come down on the side of the First Amendment but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

    Not only is the DoJ messing with policy and handing over control of the information infrastructure to a handful of Telcos – who bleat about the high cost of setting up the broadband architecture they have already woefully neglected, whilst raking in huge profits, resulting in other countries (like Japan) racing ahead in net traffic capacity – they are also allowing First Amendment rights to be tangled up in their anticompetitive oversight … so called.

    It’s utterly bogus claptrap. This administration has no interest in protecting citizens rights and is only too eager to see everyone treated as consumers of the tiered information “products” provided on their behalf by the same people who are conducting warrantless spying on their behalf. This will take away the ability of citizens to speak openly with each other.

    How will the FCC respond? How will elected representatives and potential candidates respond? How will the public respond? That will determine how damaging this DoJ statement may become. If it is not slapped back in their faces immediately, loudly and angrily you can kiss the First Amendment goodbye – along with Habeus Corpus and the Fifth, which have already been sacked.

    Net Neutrality = Free Speech.

    Fight for it.

  13. Why not let the market settle it? I know I would pay extra for a neutral ISP. — Anonymous

    How’s that gonna work, exactly? How much is your “neutral” ISP going to pay in order for your traffic to be treated neutrally by the bigger providers?

  14. Anonymous wrote:

    “Why not let the market settle it? I know I would pay extra for a neutral ISP.”

    I would too, but you can’t dictate where your packets will roam. What you download and send will inevitably cross different networks. If one of them doesn’t like the fact that you’re buying from e.g. Amazon, they could theoretically slow your packets, regardless of your own ISP’s neutrality.

    Without neutrality, the big services and providers will form alliances, and the alliances will create a balance of power similar to “Assured Mutual Destruction.” The little guys with new ideas and innovations will be shut out completely.

    Also, while I’m here, can the RSS feeds from Boin Boing provide the blogger’s name once again?

  15. As others have stated, there is no meaningful competition amongst high speed internet providers in the United States. If there was, we wouldn’t be debating the ramifications of net neutrality, we’d be comparing which ISP offered the most mbps for the lowest monthly fee. Price per mbps in countries in Europe and Asia where actual competition exists is a small fraction of what it is in the states. This is why the internet in these places is on average ten times faster (give or take) than it is here. For a cheap American bastard like me, this sucks to no end. For the sake of American competitiveness in a global economy, this sucks quite a bit as well.

  16. Well then. I say: go ahead and create your tiered network. This one has always been one-dimensional anyways. So we’ll just create another one at a 90-degree angle to this one. Call it The Counternet. It will reject all packets from the Internet. It will have no dotcom whatever. It will have no ISP bottleneck/snoop points.

    And then you’ll know what happens whn y fck strngr n th ss.

  17. i have been waiting for the equivalent in the airline business… first class planes that get to go to the head of the take-off queue, because, you know, they paid more…. so get to go faster.. it is already the same with the business/first class thing, they get out first, get through customs faster, and it is because they have paid more.. so i guess packets and speed of connection based on bucks is logical

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