[GRLUG] Comcast and net neutrality

john-thomas richards jtr at jrichards.org
Sun Oct 21 20:28:55 EDT 2007

On Sun, Oct 21, 2007 at 07:28:58PM -0400, Bob Kline wrote:
> Some aid probably just puts the e-mails
> in to piles and sees which is higher
> anyway.  i.e.,  your "representative"
> probably never reads them.

If our founding fathers were alive today, they would die of heart attacks.

> And what Comcast is doing might not
> actually be illegal.  The problem is that it
> is effectively a monopoly in many areas.
> It's well known that it and other large ISPs
> treat people in different geographic areas
> differently depending on how much
> competition they figure exists.  This too
> they are not very forthcoming about.

My understanding of the issue is that ISP's have 'common carrier' status.  The
traditional telcos have common carrier status.  It is this legal designation
that prevents, say, Ameritech, from being responsible for illegal activities
taking place on its copper.  In other words, Ameritech is simply the vehicle
for information exchange.  If someone uses Ameritech's services to plot
terrorist activities Ameritech cannot be held responsible.  This also implies
that Ameritech does not have to monitor its lines to screen for illegal
activities.  Internet Service Providers have this same status.  If I, via the
Internet via Comcast's services, plot terrorist activities, Comcast cannot be
help responsible for "allowing" me to use their services for illegal
activities.  As such, they do not have to monitor my online activities.  Here
is where my understanding may be skewed falsely.  It is also my understanding
that if a common carrier monitors or otherwise limits what its customers can
do with its services, it loses common carrier status.  For example, say you
have a favorite telephone order company.  Say you call the toll free number
and order everything via the telephone via Ameritech's services.  Also say
Ameritech comes out with a competing telephone order service.  In order to
entice you to use its own service Ameritech reduces the quality of your
telephone conversations with the customer service reps at your favorite
company or even causes your calls to this company to disconnect.  Based on my
understanding this company would lose common carrier status and would then be
liable for illegal activities on its network.  Thus, it *is* illegal for
Comcast to want to limit how I use my internet connection.

Then again, I may be all wet.  :-)

[snip, snip, and more snip]
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C Clarke, science fiction writer (1917- )

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