We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the Internet Company.

Dennis Sanders

Dennis is the pastor of a small Protestant congregation outside St. Paul, MN and also a part-time communications consultant. A native of Michigan, you can check out his writings over on Medium and subscribe to his Substack newsletter on religion and politics called Polite Company.  Dennis lives in Minneapolis with his husband Daniel.

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25 Responses

  1. Saul DeGraw says:

    Yeah I listened to that NPR story. I am not a super heavy user so I rarely have problems. I am not watching super ondemand things like Game of Thrones on HBO GO.

    I think that the FTC decision indicates the crony nature of American capitalism. The British decision would probably scream “socialism” to American right wing and business types but led to more competition and consumerism. How much lobbying did Time Warner and Comcast do to get the FTC decision?Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Why not watch Game of Thrones? It’s bloody good pulp fiction!Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      I care because Verizon can’t bloody handle something marked “handle with care” without breaking it.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      Actually you should on average expect much better performance for popular things such as GoT, as opposed to some long-tail choice, such as {well, whatever, fill in the blank}.

      If you’re grabbing GoT from HBO-GO, there is a near certain probability that it is sitting nearby in a caching server, quite likely in your provider’s closest datacenter, very often linked by high speed Ethernet directly into a backbone router.

      When you pull down the long-tail content, on the other hand, it is very unlikely to be cached nearby, and thus will have to be delivered packet by packet from the content provider to your house. Much more chance of packet loss, much more delay.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Saul DeGraw says:

      HBO Go’s inability to satisfy everyone who wanted to watch GoT at the same time was a problem at their end, not at yours.Report

  2. Patrick says:

    American broadband is the mockery of the civilized world.Report

  3. Michael Cain says:

    The critical decision was made almost a decade before 2002. In the 1993-ish time frame, the FCC had to make a decision about how to classify consumer “data service” provided over something other than dial-up modems. At that time, it wasn’t clear that anyone could make money just selling transport; it wasn’t clear that Ethernet/TCP/IP was going to win the technology competition; it was an era when the “walled garden” model on which AOL had succeeded was prominent. So the FCC classified data services, including internet access, as “information” services for regulatory purposes.

    At least one of the US courts that has ruled against the FCC on net neutrality has pointed out to them that yes, such regulation is within their charter, but only for things that are classified as communications services, not information services. The cost of changing the classification would run to at least billions of dollars of network redesigns and modification; long drawn-out lawsuits to resolve where to draw the dividing lines; and potential suits over access to the physical media [1]. The FCC ain’t gonna touch that one, so it’s up to Congress to act. And one of the two major political parties is opposed on principle to forcing a major change on the big cable companies.

    Another major influence at the time was the “content is king” thinking. The big money wasn’t going to be in transport, it was going to be in controlling the creation of and access to high-value content. Trust me on this one — I was running a small lab that explored a lot of what TCP/IP could do if you were clever with it [2], and lots of senior managers trying to understand “the internet thing” came through. I was an advocate of making internet access a basic service and selling high-quality “pipes,” which put me in the minority (sometimes, it felt like a minority of one). I’m sure I can find people who remember hearing me muttering under my breath after some all-male demos, “How is the pipe concept supposed to compete when they all think they will get to hang with the Hollywood starlets?”

    [1] I worked for the only cable company that seriously considered opening up the physical media for other ISPs. We abandoned the effort after it became clear that those ISPs insisted on an architecture that made the systems unusable for everybody. They were perfectly happy with that, as they were already offering services over DSL and would be happier if cable modems just went away.

    [2] I’m still proud of the internal white paper titled “The IP Telephone Company” that I wrote in 1993 that laid out a vision of the internet’s growth and capabilities that has all pretty much come to pass. I even got a lot of the timing on how long it would take right.Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Michael Cain says:

      ” it was an era when the “walled garden” model on which AOL had succeeded was prominent. ”

      This is an extremely important thing to keep in mind when discussing what The Internet looks like, where it might go from here, and why we can’t Just Fix All The Problems.Report

  4. Nob Akimoto says:

    Well, the US can at least take solace that it’s not Australia.Report

    • Less pithily there is a tendency for OECD rankings to reflect some measures of density (since Australia and the US both do rather poorly), but that doesn’t seem to have stopped nordic states or Canada from having really high broadband speed AND penetration. So there’s definitely a policy preference component and regulation piece there.Report

      • The best indicator for the policy angle, IMO by the way isn’t so much broadband speeds advertised or penetration of fixed broadband connections, but the COMPOSITION of the market.

        Japan for example has a 63% market share of fiber to the x location (FttX) services and only 12% DSL while in the US that’s closer to 9% and 40% respectively.Report

      • Mo in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Canadian lack of density is very different than that of the US. Canada has essentially a densish part and an empty party. The US has a lot more lightly populated, but still reasonably inhabited parts of the country.


      • James K in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        @mo , @nob-akimoto

        The same is true of Australia. The East Coast is heavily populated, the outback is effectively deserted (which is appropriate since it is desert).Report

      • @james-k Australia is really interesting to me. It has a very low population density, but is very urban. The vast majority of its population lives in the east, but then you have the west coast and the desert in between. It seems to me that Western Australia has to feel awfully isolated out there. It’s a 28-hour drive from Perth to Adelaide!Report

  5. Will Truman says:

    The best video commentary on cable companies is this video:


  6. Lyle says:

    Interestingly the rural areas have one advantage due to the tv white space issue, lots of tv channels are unused there, and can be used for broadband. In cities not so much, as there are far more tv stations in the area. The tv band frequencies are know to travel reasonable distances, and mean that you can get to remote residences without stringing wire.
    Where I live in a semi-rural area there are several wireless providers on the 2.4 ghz band. Again it won’t work in the city but does work in the rural areas. So where I live you can choose the local telephone coop, the cable company or any number of wireless internet providers.Report

    • dhex in reply to Lyle says:

      for those of us forced into more rural locales, the alien v. predator battle of hughesnet v. verizon wireless is just plain terribad. and metered. and twice as expensive as dsl or cable options. neither of which i have the option of there.

      $120/month for 30gb.


  7. DavidTC says:

    You might have at most two choices, a cable company like Comcast or a DSL line from the phone company.

    Man, I would kill for two choices.

    The phone company and the cable company in my town are the same company.Report

    • Road Scholar in reply to DavidTC says:

      And thus it shall ever be. These things are natural monopolies. The endpoint of digital convergence is a monopoly provider of data services–internet, voice (VOIP), and video (IPTV).

      It can be demonstrated mathematically that any service delivered to the consumer via fixed infrastructure, at least where such infrastructure constitutes the bulk of the physical plant cost, will be a natural monopoly.

      About fifteen years ago our town started out with standard phone over copper wires offering dial-up and DSL, and standard cable TV over coax offering sorta fast internet via cable modem. Neither internet service was adequate for something like Netflix. Then a competing carrier came in and wired the town up with fiber-to-home service, one of the first in the country, offering voice, much faster internet, and HD digital CATV. Since then the legacy cable operater folded. The legacy phone company is still around but they’ve made no moves to upgrade their service; just sort of coasting on some customer inertia.

      Depending on how you look at it, I suppose it isn’t fair to say there’s NO competition, but what exists isn’t really head-to-head. It’s wired phone vs. cellular vs. VOIP; CATV vs. satellite; DSL vs. Ethernet vs. 4G. Sometimes you have direct competition for equivalent service and sometimes you don’t. It just depends on what you need or want.Report