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|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Net Neutrality
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Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2014 06:50:22 -0400
From: Ruben Safir
Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Net Neutrality
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28 April 2014 Last updated at 05:16 ET
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Could new net neutrality rules fuel piracy?
By Debbie Siegelbaum BBC News, Washington
A protester wearing an Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask takes part in a
demonstration in Zagreb, Croatia, on 11 February 2012 Experts argue
higher internet fees may result in more consumers turning to pirated
Continue reading the main story
US to propose 'fast lane' net rules
Netflix boss hits out at ISP fees
Net neutrality threatened by court
Many consumers were outraged with the news that the US Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) was possibly considering new rules
allowing net providers to charge more for access to an online fast lane.
People decried the perceived death of open communication, the potential
rising costs of access, and perhaps, most importantly, how they would
access streaming episodes of favourite programmes like Breaking Bad and
House of Cards.
The insatiable demand for streaming content has choked US networks,
causing internet service providers (ISPs) to attempt to spread the cost
of upgraded service to content providers like Netflix.
According to reports, the FCC will allow a fast lane for data-heavy
services when new rules are published in May. Critics say this violates
the so-called "net neutrality" principle that all internet traffic
should be treated equally.
If such growing costs trickle down to consumers, experts believe a life
of internet piracy may seem appealing for those accustomed to cheaper
There's "a real possibility that you will price some people out of the
market for legitimate programming and into a market for ill-gotten
programming because it will just cost too much or it will become clear
they can pay a lot less for it," says Allen Hammond, director of the
Broadband Institute of California.
Already more than 11% of all internet traffic is believed to be
illegally shared, copyrighted content such as films and television
episodes, according to a report commissioned by NBC Universal.
ISPs like Verizon have acknowledged that video streaming demand has
grown exponentially in recent years, eating up to half of bandwidth. And
upgrades to current networks can prove very costly.
"Other companies want us to spend our money to help supplement what they
may be doing," Verizon spokeswoman Linda Laughlin says.
As ISPs negotiate with content providers like Netflix, service has
sometimes slowed to a near unusable speed for certain customers.
In short, some people are paying for streaming services they are not
A sign is posted in front of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos,
California, on 22 January 2014 ISPs have been in talks with content
distributor Netflix to negotiate new pay agreements
For ethicist Irina Raicu, it presents an unusual dilemma in which
turning to pirating of content may not be, technically, wrong.
"If you are actually paying and using [piracy sites] in desperation, I
don't think it's unethical," she says, but adds that content creators
may be hurt more than ISPs in the bargain.
Film studios concur, arguing internet piracy costs them millions of
dollars in lost revenue every year.
"I think it just speaks to the way consumers are just pushed to the
limit here," Ms Raicu says. "In a world where people feel like the big
companies are allowed to act unethically and without any kind of
regulations, I think it's more likely to prompt people to respond the
Ms Raicu says the argument is part of the ongoing net neutrality debate
in the US. Is the internet a human right, or a business to be controlled
by market forces?
Many have argued the US government should treat the internet as a public
utility rather than the oligopoly it is today.
A low number of ISPs control the bulk of the market, and in some areas
of the nation there is only one ISP available.
And if you don't like their practices, well… tough.
Under such a system, customers don't have the ability to modify
contracts or hold their ISP accountable, says Mr Hammond.
"Businesses are providing service based on a contract that is written
from their point of view," he says. "We have [no room] to negotiate."
If no statutes are written to protect consumer rights, then customers
are bound to the terms of the contract. It becomes a take-it-or-leave-it
A TV screen showing options of the new Amazon Fire at a news conference
in New York on 2 April 2014 The demand for streaming video has grown
exponentially in recent years, experts say
And right now the US government appears less than eager to enter into
"If Congress wants to impose net neutrality, it can," says Aaron
Schwabach, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
But "I doubt that Congress could agree to adopt a national pancake right
now", he says, referencing the recent paralysing political polarisation
in the US House of Representatives and Senate.
Mr Schwabach also notes that those same politicians are beholden to the
ISPs - often part of larger media conglomerates - for access to
constituents come voting season.
Continue reading the main story
You can't have the FCC coming into people's homes and suing
everybody. People just won't tolerate that”
Stuart Green Professor at Rutgers School of Law
"These corporations are pretty large and pretty well-versed and [also]
have their people up on Capitol Hill" lobbying, echoes Mr Hammond. "And
they have long memories and deep pockets."
When individual consumer Davids are up against corporate and government
Goliaths, turning to piracy may some day become a form of social
protest, experts argue.
"We have anti-monopoly laws, we have regulation because we don't want to
have too much concentration of power in too few hands," says Stuart
Green, a professor at Rutgers School of Law.
"I think people feel like at a certain point they have to correct what
the government or the market won't correct," he adds. "When a government
or oligopoly controls all of the wealth, then sometimes people have to
break the law in order to change the status quo as an agent of social
Even if such internet piracy is a self-serving desire for free access to
the Iron Man films and not pure altruism, if enough people do it, it may
render the illegality of it moot.
"If people feel like this has gotten out of hand and power is controlled
by too small a group of people [who think], 'My bills keep going up and
up, I'm not going to tolerate that, I'm going to violate the law', the
aggregate result is the law becomes unstable," Mr Green says.
"[If] most people believe that the law is not consistent with their
intuitions and beliefs about what's right and wrong, the law isn't
really going to be effective," he adds. "You can't have the FCC coming
into people's homes and suing everybody. People just won't tolerate
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gives testimony before the Financial Services
and General Government Subcommittee in Washington, DC, on 27 March 2014
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is said to be behind proposed guidelines
allowing net providers to charge more for faster access
But, if internet rules continue to change, ISPs may be able to block
access to illegal content download sites for fear of being sued by
Basically, just as people may be turning more to piracy, pirate sites
will be driven to extinction.
"That should reduce the incidents of illegal downloading because it
won't be technologically possible," says Mr Green.
"Or people will find new ways to get around it."
Mr Schwabach notes that, when he was in college, other people would take
turns purchasing a vinyl record each week and allowed their classmates
to re-record and distribute the music on cassettes.
The same is likely to hold true for the internet.
"Some people always find a way," he concludes.