644 – White Smoke Mountain • 13

The Friday Blog

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the FCC lacked the authority to tell Comcast (and by extension all other internet providers) not to pick and choose what types of web applications they would allow on their networks. To some, this seems natural and normal on the face of it, but the implications for the destruction of competition ring far and wide.

The problem is that large services like Comcast and AT&T have more than one dog in this fight, and they are all too happy to kill your dogs in order to see theirs win. For instance, Comcast sees streaming video as a direct threat to their cable business, as it competes head to head for the customer’s attention. Yet Comcast now has no incentive to continue to allow you to watch it. Turn on a streaming video, and you could in the near future see your bandwidth drop to zero. And there is no reason that this need be limited to the heaviest users, like was announced a few months ago. They may now throttle your ability to use the internet for any reason at all, and we would be foolish to think they wouldn’t do so to increase their own bottom line. The same is true for AT&T and VOIP telephone apps. In fact, now that AT&T and Comcast are sharing nearly identical high-end services for cable/telephone/internet, all concerns for one apply equally to the other.

The FCC is not out of the fight yet however. The agency suffered tremendously under Bush, and while it has yet to recover, Obama has stated numerous times that net neutrality is an important issue to him, and simply returning the FCC’s authority and even expanding it to match technological advances could likely solve most of the worst offenses.

While things won’t get better on their own, and there is no doubt that this is bad news, there is reason to be hopeful. The ruling is a slap in the face of the American Public in favor of Corporate America, and I expect that it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Look for more attention to start being paid to this soon. And the first time some senator fires up his Apple TV and gets a one finger salute from Comcast, expect to see a different sort of revisiting of the subject.

53 Responses to 644 – White Smoke Mountain • 13

  1. could someone explain to me why corporations can pull this shit and keep there customers? I thought this was a capitalist country where the best competitor wins, wouldn’t a company that DOESN’T pull this shit get the customers that other company’s piss off?

    right now im using Verizon and I have yet to have a single complaint about them, I sure hope it stays that way cause I do use Skype and I would be thoroughly upset if they decided to pull the plug when they catch me using it, as it is my only method of using a phone.

    you know what I say bring it on, I bet if this becomes a trend Google will step in and announce they will make a inexpensive internet service for everyone that has none of this bullshit

    • It helps when you’re the only game in town.

      But you’re right about Google. Right now they’re looking for their 50 towns to put their new “super-internet” into, not because they’re looking to get into the service provider business, but rather to show the current providers out there that they could, and if they did, they’d do it better.

    • Kevin made my point about being the only game in town. Comcast is really the only option I have in my area for high speed internet. Your concern about Verizon blocking Skype is exactly what everyone is worried about. Verizon could block Skype so that you would have to use their phone service.

      • Even if there are other games in town, sometimes you still don’t have a choice.

        I was a long time Cox customer for my Internet. My neighborhood is on the border of their service territory and Time Warner’s. Then all of a sudden I get a note saying that I was being switched to Time Warner and that Cox would no longer serve my neighborhood. I could switch to AT&T, but they can’t provide the same bandwidth that I get with cable (my neighborhood only gets the low tiers) and I’m a heavy user (4 desktops, 5 laptops, 3 game consoles, alarm system, etc. all on my network)…..and I don’t even do any bittorrenting.

    • Hey mister senator, how many underage hookers do I have to buy for you to get that legislation changed? That few? Wow, that’s really cost effective!

      • You know, that’s always one thing that really surprises me. Most people don’t realize how little it actually costs to purchase a Congressman. It’s a little more difficult to make sure they STAY bought… after all you’re probably not going to report them to anyone for double-crossing you on you bribe.

    • Ya AT&T has the worst reputation among phone providers; the iPhone is just about the only thing going for them. IIRC they were the only provider desperate enough to let Apple do whatever they want and so they got the job.

      As for monopolies and so on, that usually comes from lobbying and laws that benefit the lobbying businesses. Capitalism is actually about stopping this; regulations and restrictions on businesses is all peachy dandy.

  2. And the first time some senator fires up his Apple TV and gets a one finger salute from Comcast, expect to see a different sort of revisiting of the subject.
    This is how things will change, I think. Unless, of course, they get a free pass.

    I thought this was a capitalist country where the best competitor wins, wouldn’t a company that DOESN’T pull this shit get the customers that other company’s piss off?
    I’m not sure.
    America, as other countries, use this philosophy when it suits it. When it doesn’t, well, it doesn’t. In the past, for exemple, America put tax on imported good, which goes against that whole “free competition” philosophy.
    Of course, nothing stops a competitor of comcast from acting differently.

    • After a lifetime in a capitalist country, I have come to the conclusion that unfettered capitalism is an extremely evil thing, and invariably results in one monolithic entity squashing all the rest, and then cannibalizing it’s own consumer base. Restricted capitalism is better, though it’s a tightrope between protecting vulnerable business from unfair practices, and creating a restrictive business space. Also it invites corruption, as the largest businesses will always try to buy favorable rules for themselves and hamstring their competition.

      Oh wait! That looks like what just happened!

      • Americans (well most of the Western World, but the USA is an extreme example) have been trained by propaganda from the cradle to subconsciously equate “(unfettered) capitalism” (A) with “freedom” (B) and “goodness” (C) and “democracy” (D), believing that A equals B and C and will inevitable lead to D. (Yeah, look at China to see how well that worked out.) Oh, and that worker unions are the work of evil mutant commies.

        When Adam Smith ( a Scotsman) returned from a trip to then-imperial Great Britain and went to write “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776, he penned a book that hit a nerve of his times (and was influencial for the centuries to come): the noble picture of Great Britain as a nation of self-made merchants, of ever-growing prosperity for all classes (not for those dirty foreigners, mind you) by means of division of labour, rationalisation of workflow and trickle-down economics, and freedom from slavery and oppression through free trade. (Free trade, that is, for Great Britain.)

        And most importantly, The Wealth of Nations supported the idea that History was a Great Plan unfolding, inevitably leading to happiness and prosperity. God’s will had been replaced by the natural progression of history. 19th century Manifest Destiny was based on this worldview, as was Marx’s revolution of the proletariat, as was 20th century American exceptionalism and Fukuyama’s The End of History so beloved by modern neo-liberals/neo-convervatives.

        Keep in mind, too, that back during the Enlightenment and the later Age of Industrialisation, Earth did not yet harbour 7 billion humans, robots didn’t exist (although Edmund Cartwright invented the mechanised, steam-powered Power Loom in 1785), and manufacturers usually faced the problem of too few skilled workers, even after the fencing of the Commons had destroyed the social balance of the countryside and driven countless desperate peasants into the growing cities in search of work as indentured labourers.

        In contrast to Thomas Hobbes, Smith was an idealist and a humanist who believed in the inherent reason and goodness of mankind. From what is known of his private life and personality, he was a polite and friendly man, but rather out of touch with the grim realities of life of his time. In short, he made the same mistake that 99% of us do (me included), from the basest sociopath to the most high-minded visionary: We run around thinking that everyone else sees the world exactly as we do, so if someone disagrees with you, it must be because he’s inherently stupid or misled (or, if you think God is on your side, then the other guy must be inherently evil).

        Anyway…where was I?

        Karl Marx (1818-1883), born into a jewish family in the city of Trier (which used to belong to Napoleonic France until 1814 when it was conquered by Prussia) saw first-hand what had become of Smith’s utopia. Today, Marx’s writings have sadly been reduced to slogans about communism. His philosophical standpoint as been variously called Historical Materialism or Anthropological Materialism… the idea that history is not steered by Ideas but by the material circumstances of the People. Marx and his friend Friedrich Engels wrote wrote influencial essays about the French Revolution, Prussian society, and criticism of state religion, class warfare, slavery and oppression in all its forms. Marx was influenced by the writings of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Ludwig Feuerbach and the sociopolitical landscape of Germany, France and England of the time, which was rife with attempts at political reformation and calls for Revolution.

        Both Smith and Marx were moral philosophers of history, and they wrote many interesting analyses (even more interesting in hindsight). But when it comes down to it, they were both theoreticians. The problem with all social philosophy and utopian writings I’ve read, i.e. Harold Loeb’s uplifting engineer’s utopia decribed in “Life in a Technocracy: What is would be like” (1933)[1], is they fail when exposed to Reality.

        Not merely because they were so strongly rooted in the political culture of their day and age, but most importantly because the writers seem to go for the “This is self-evidently what must happen/has happened, and if only everyone follows these noble principles, utopia will result” approach and never ever seem to grasp the idea that something might plain go wrong. That there’s always some hidden cost, or the question of what to do with those people who do not fit into the new world order or are not permitted by others to take part. That even if you offered mankind the perfect formula for a perfect world, there will always be someone who decides to screw with it because he likes to be whiny and contrary or because he is a sociopath who is unable to grasp the idea a social contract (that is, agreeing to control your own selfish impulses and subject yourself to society’s laws for the Greater Good.)

        Unfortunately, the history that Marx invisioned has come to pass.

        [1] http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7051/is_n1_v8/ai_n28700046/

        “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
        – Thomas Jefferson, 1816 (U.S. President 1801-09)

        “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
        – Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (U.S. President 1861-65), in a letter to Col. William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864 (Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Archer H. Shaw, Macmillan, 1950, NY)

        “This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.”
        – Rutherford B. Hayes, 1876 (U.S. President 1877-81)

        “Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.”
        – Grover Cleveland, 1888 (U.S. President 1885-89 and 1892-96)

        “The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have themselves called into being. There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.”
        – Theodore Roosevelt, 1910 (U.S. President 1901-09)

        “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.”
        – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1938 (U.S. President 1933-45)

        • Whoa. TL:Did-R.
          You put the dunce cap on Smith yourself, do I have to quote from The Communist Manifesto to put one on Marx so that we can get away from the dead white men without solutions?
          Seriously, I have strong respect for the guy as probably being the closest thing to an honest economic theoretician to date but establishing a labour union and plotting violent overthrow of the capitalists isn’t in the cards right now. For one, how the hell are all the would-be revolutionaries gonna find each other when Comcast bandwidth-throttles the revolution’s Twitter feed?

        • I think you could have made the point more effectively if you had spent some time discussing Hegel’s Reason in History while reducing the space you apply to what are in great measure its derivatives. The essential flaw, copied in the derivatives, is Hegel’s assertion of an inevitable historical process (the Hegelian dialectic) that loses its inevitablity once the author’s desired goal is attained.

          • I haven’t read my Hegel yet, is the wikipedia page decent? If not, would you please point me somewhere better?

            • The Wiki entry starts with an editorial complaint; this mainly addresses the style and frequency of citations and footnotes. The content gives a reasonable overview but lacks depth. My own reading has been books that are now, at least mostly, out of print, – so I can’t really point you toward any specific source.

              I’d suggest a survey volume on German philosophy, or more narrowly on Hegel’s thought. Contrary to the Wiki stance, I would advise reading Hegel in translation, even for a native speaker of German. While Wiki argues for the original German because translations are never exact, a good translation will note of usage problems — including non-standard usages and coinages that a native speaker would often miss.

              • Thank you, I would’ve thought I needed to brush up on my Deutsch to make proper sense of a Deutschlander but I think I grasp what you mean about archaic usage problems from what it takes to not misinterpret William Shakespeare.

              • Thesis-antithesis-synthesis is a bizarre notion to me. It strikes me as an imposed boundary line view of conceptual and/or historical development. History being hypothesized as a series of fusions of pairs of apparently contradictory concepts into fresh syntheses which then somehow stumble upon or create one or more new contradiction to combine with later rings false to me: It strikes me as far too neat, binary, and generally lacking on the question of where all the fresh contradictions keep coming from.
                Let me see if I understand your criticism though: Each one of the previous historical syntheses in Hegelian dialectic lead up to a new state of conflict and Hegel and all his imitators all fail the test of self-consistency by forgetting that their dialectic is a process of development. They instead break off into a hymnal of praises for their speciously immortal and desirable end product state despite the fact that Hegelian dialectic does not have a built-in place to yell, “Bingo!” or some other equivalently definite end (the Fukuyama fallacy of history ending before human civilization does).

                …Have I understood you correctly?

                • Your interpretation of my objection is right on. However, although it comes close to a neo-Hegelian view, I don’t fully subscribe to your reading of the dialectic itself. In practice it is a suburb narrative tool, especially for the presentation of historical process. Of course, knowing where you want the tale to go makes it much easier to find the necessary elements of the triad; this also leads to my critique.

                  • Doubtless I’m mangling something in my statements or understanding of the matter, my readings on the subject were very light and surface-level stuff since I got that from surfing wikipedia and a few philosophy websites.
                    On the other hand, my understanding of systems development in my profession as an information systems project developer and manager does not mesh with this notion of dialectic at all. It strikes me as an intentionally-crafted rhetorical device and I find that repugnant on an intuitive level. A significant part of me wants to yell out, “Bullshit!” as I read about the topic.

                    • I don’t think you have seriously mangled the ideas, beyond not distinguishing between Hegel’s thought and later elaborations by the neo-Hegelians. The Wiki article offers some discussion of the differences; roughly, the neos formalized Hegel’s ideas then gave this formalism the force of divine writ. Your own objection seems to focus on the “artificiality” of the process. Any organizing system tends to be artifical, although it is more obvious when the system is formal. In this context I’ll paraphrase a comment from my own field — God gave us the positive whole numbers, all else is the work of man.

        • Have you actually read Smith Wealth of Nations?? (and the exposition of why he decided to write it).

          From the above it appears you’ve read someone elses’ opinion about him/it.

          And the danger is not Fascism (just noticed that above).. that’s tyranny. Which as Greece found, is not always a bad thing. (for the people, not so good for rich corruption senators/demogogues)

          And I’ve noticed that those who believe in “Social Contract” always seem happy to operate with their own contribution “in the red” in real figures. Often hidden as tax/rates/social slush funds tied to political organisations. And that they seem to expect others to fill the loss, and that the sum deficit will be Magically filled by unicorns bearing pots of leprechaun gold. Until the sad organisation finally collapses under the parasitic burden.

        • Ya that writeup sounds like standard history book POV. I read some of Wealth of Nations and Smith is very low on theory. He’s pretty good about pointing out what has and has not worked in such and such country. Usually it’s helping businesses that brought monopolies and screwed over countries he examined, and sometimes restricting or regulating businesses that helped. From this came “government stay out of business” which now is twisted to exactly the opposite of Capitalism, and that seems to lead to a lot of the complaints.

          (EDIT for surrounding complaints): Yeah look at all these examples of the government aiding businesses and how it turns out screwy.

          • That’s what I got from Smith. Mostly analysis stuff, which is what I was looking for, to get a second opinion on my own primary observations. I have get to finish the book (he admits on the Internetz) so it might be different at the end. Most of the “philosophies of Smith” I have brushed against have been Other Peoples’ theories and philosophies that refer obliquely to the work (read: name dropping) but seem to miss the point (or perhaps the context).
            eg: Smith strongly speaks against taxation of income. He links this to drop of morale (which was a !serious! issue at his point in time) and that in his opinion in would lead to a drop in productivity, and through that economic decline for the nation (ie less work-hours inputted). However this is philosophically linked to free-market capitalism (and hijacked by liberal/anarachists who prefer to “assume the principle reason is ‘a given’*) whereas Smith is not referring to the whole market (an understanding of which didn’t exist in it’s current form at the time – outside a few intuitive genii who were very rich off that information). He is referring to how to get the workforce…working – because he has identified at this point that the wealth comes from labour & skills (inputs) NOT from Lords, Governments, Parliments, Military or Banks.

            One of the major difficulties faced by government intervention (and government operated operations) is that by their very nature they are political organisations. Decision are not made because something is resource producing or sustainable, but for political motivations (perceived fairness based on image, political favours or promotions, assessment of need based on polis or public desire or even political ideology**). Thus such an organisation adapts to the prevailing political powers (or those who resist are removed) instead of adapting to sustainable operation or matching with what resources are available to it.
            Of course that’s easier said than done, as free market means competition. And competition is a form of warfare and warfare is economically and socially expensive. (and usually the truth and the poor are the first to suffer. Look around you for proof.)

            * Mentioned not to be rude to Mr Coward, but to illustrate how when the core precept is dropped the context is lost and the material can be re-orientated to support a non-sequitor argument. eg Free market means we can all buy what we want. Where actually the opposite is true. In a truly free market you can only have what you can afford, which for most of that type of freethinker is S.F.All)

            ** The USSR hetrogenisis planting of wheat/cereal fields leaps to mind. Someone put forward a “negative proof” that planting all cereals mixed together (like the equality of the workers) will produce increased gains because communism is the great equaliser and best. “Negative proof” because his actual intended audience knew cereals and knew that doing that increased pest levels, decreased harvestability and reduce the quality of the result, as there was just a random mix of grain, not a reliable standard of each type to work with, would result in seriously compromised production and planting. However a political observer (aka police – but there’s no crime in a pure communist state, so there are no police…) made note of this “wonderful idea” and related it to the political higher-ups. Who embraced this lovely ideal and proof of their correctness and proceeded to dictate (sorry, recommend, comrade) that future plantings to be done this way. The speakers was given a choice; him and his family to be promoted to follow and sow the peoples’ wonderful progress in science … or say it was wrong which would mean he was “misrepresenting the scientific party Truth” to his audience and his reputation shot, and also be labelled as a dissenter of the worst type for he was stopping the people scientific progress AND trying to make the s-elected leaders look foolish with his anti-scientific claims. Either way they were going to still run with the planting ideas. Poor chap had a sad ending.

            • Not sure who you are refering to… it sounds like Lysenkoism, but Trofim Lysenko (a.k.a. Trofim Denissowitsch Lyssenko) wasn’t forced by the Political Party to accept pseudo-science, rather the other way around. Lysenko’s ass-backwards views about heredity and plant genetics were popular for a time both in the Soviet Union and Communist China where they caused loss of harvests and starvation during the Great Leap Forward.

              Prior to Lysenko’s mad brand of Lamarkism, Soviet Russia had many brilliant geneticists and agro-biologists. When the Communist Party decided to let political ideology dictate scientific truth and branded Mendelianism as “bourgeois idealism”, many of these scientists were banished to labor camps in Sibiria and the Arctic, imprisoned, or executed as “Menshevik idealists”. Others disappeared after forced confessions or had to enter other lines of work, or if they were allowed to remain in their labs they were obliged to redirect their researches to prove the correctness of the officially approved views.


            • I’m not sure I believe what you think I believe because I’m not sure what you think I believe, and I think I’m unsure what you’re saying about the works of Adam Smith, whom I have not read. I won’t deny that I am contemptuous of the concept of the invisible hand of the market but I think that’s irrelevant to the main question.

      • Because we all know that no-bid contracts for Halliburton and everybody else on the Department of Defense take is the invisible hand of the market ensuring the best price for all goods. The rest of the world can learn a lot about financial stability from the shining example of unfettered American capitalism.

    • What do you mean “in the past”?

      The US is one of the most heavily protected import markets!

      • Of course, remember how it was all the rest of the world and not the US that was caught up in that melamine-contaminated rice in pet food?
        Seriously, you’re mostly right though. The corn syrup industry wouldn’t exist in its current shape and extent if it weren’t for the U.S. protecting its market from Cuban sugar.

        • And protecting from Australian Sugar, and Australian Steel. (two of Aussi’s biggest exports)

          No I don’t remember that pet food issue, nor do I see how it could affect the rest of the World. Big place, much of which doesn’t buy “petfood”. Let alone rice based pet food.

          Although I do know a fair bit about the recent problems with a Chinese factory adding melamine to baby-formula. The CEO had being given a % of protein quota to meet in their milk factories output, and since their cows couldn’t do that they added melamine to make the milk more robust. (The nitrates & ammonia read high on the nitorgen tests for proteins). Despite all the data that was given to her on it’s dangers, and that it was toxic to the kidneys, and killed dogs (it forms “needles” in the kidneys), all she was willing to do was reduce the amount they were adding. (Based on the European and US allowances for melamine appearing in foodstuffs. – It naturally leaches out of some plastics.) I assume the data about the toxicity to dogs comes from your petfood example?

          • The data on animal and human toxicity is probably old hat from MSDS testing, don’t eat melamine.
            This was a big scandal across much of North America a couple years ago where bulk Chinese exports of rice products used as an ingredient in pet food were found to be contaminated with melamine by people’s pets developing liver and kidney problems or dying outright. Far from the only consumer goods crisis involving crappy Chinese stuff, the number of lead paint, coating and additive warnings for exported toys from China has crossed from tragedy to farce, to name the tip of the iceberg.
            Clearly the right thing to do for Australia is to do what China seems to have done: Bribe the right people in Washington DC to get around the trade protectionism. It sure seems to work for China and Israel.

  3. To find out how you can help, there are several grass-roots organizations out there that were trying to stop this, and are now trying to help correct it.

    savetheinternet.com might be a good place to look if you’re interested in finding out more.

  4. Comcast is one of the worst businesses out there, they basically have a monopoly over DC for internet bandwith, Verizon is trying to compete with DSL and Fiber but it is proving difficult. I use Verizon DSL so I have a phone line as well (in DC Suburb), if they started limiting bandwith based on streaming apps, like Skype, I use I would have a field day in court, but they would never do this because it does not cost them business for me to use such apps.

    Comcast is however, affected by people torrenting and streaming based on how cable works (shared) so it can have an impact on business. It is the same situation as AT&T with the iPhone and surge in mobile bandwith, they tried to reason with the customers to ‘use less’ so that their network would rate higher, it was dropping calls left and right because iPhone crazies were using all the Tower space. Comcast has severe architecture problems because they have not improved their systems fast enough, I mean Digital cable was installed almost 10 years ago, it simply cannot handle the amount of data being used by individuals and adequately provide guaranteed payed services to its whole customer base – it has to restrict.

    Landline services are really starting to phase out though, Sprint has come out with the latest 4G which is basically High End DSL High Speed or lower tier cable on a handset or dongle modem. I think Comcast is simply trying to maintain what it has and get as much money as possible before the new, simpler, cheaper systems take over.

    • Yeah, they couldn’t easily copy how Japan does it and give out consumer internet access with more than ten times the bandwidth for cheaper than we get here.
      The real problem isn’t the trust and monopoly behaviour of North American telecommunications companies which are protected from genuine competition by corruption and private ownership of public infrastructure.

      Did U C wat eye did ther?

      • Which takes us back to Google’s “experiment”. By placing genuine high-speed (10 to 100 times what is considered high speed generally) Google is hoping to force carriers to begin updating their infrastructure to keep up with the times. I think the implicit threat is really “You fix this or we’ll provide this technology to someone else who will”.

        Comcast, Cox, AT&T and others ran straight to the courtroom to sue Google so as to PREVENT THEM FROM PROVIDING PEOPLE WITH BETTER SERVICE. Sorry, but my sympathy does not really extend that far. I think Chris has the right of it when he says that they are simply trying to squeeze the last few dollars out of their antiquated network before being forced to modernize. It’s hardly a new phenomena. (doo-d0oo, de doo-doo)

        • It remains to be seen just how much bribery, lawyers and skullduggery they’ll manage to throw at Google, it is the entire whole of the Cable and Telephone industries that Google is picking on here. That’s not chump-change.
          I still think that it’s foolish that all of this is happening like so because this isn’t strictly entertainment so internet service should have been recognized as a public utility by now. The billing generally costs more than the rest so it should have just been carried as an extra wire by the utility folks and plugged in as a small line-item in municipal budgets. It wouldn’t even be an issue if American politics weren’t so impressively corrupt.

        • I would say it’s probably worse than squeezing out a few more dollars.
          I’d guess that they have been living it higher on the pig than putting money and design for the future would recommend, and blowing it on (exec) salaries and information feedback and image. Now they should have the quity to borrow against and the strategic assets they need to do the next big push….and they’ve consumed it (or lost it) and know they don’t have what it takes to modernise and stay competitive. And the shareholders will be used to their high returns and won’t want to hear about several billi0n invest in “catch-up” investments!

          • Never underestimate both the greed and the laziness of monopolists. Seriously, AT&T had to be threatened with extinction by the USDoD in order to make it accept a profitable contract to build the original military internet infrastructure. That is the standard level of greed and laziness for the telecommunications industry in North America. (Please, don’t ask me to quote more examples of their greedy and lazy behaviour, they exist in great quantity.)

  5. About the comic: I’m very sad it wasn’t a rune of obliteration, or explosion, or tentacle rape or something that would actually teach the players better.

      • In the last decade? Nobody, I’ve stayed away.
        Before that? Generally players who were devious bastards themselves with a sprinkling of roleplayers and neophytes I made sure to give extra protection and consideration to.
        It worked because the way I run things is very simulationist: It wasn’t me being a dick, it was an NPC being a dick, and usually an NPC that they could reasonably expect it of. My NPCs are limited-perception actors instead of plot devices, I just work out the details of who did what and stock the world with enough NPCs to be interesting.

        I suppose I should clarify though: Is this an entrance that anybody other than a thief/adventurer would use? If there are still UPS guys or temp-workers that come through this entrance I suppose a rune of stunning is more appropriate (if less… satisfying).

        • Now I want to play a half-orc UPS postal worker in a D&D world. 😆
          Life is tough when the dog that chases you is a hellhound, and your delivery address is called “Mount Doom”.

          • And your delivery wagon’s two horsepower just isn’t enough to get up the side of the volcano even if it had off-road capability?

  6. Isn’t “Net Neutrality” just the latest incarnation of the “Fairness Doctrine?”

    Just what the internet needs, some pencil-necked bureaucrat dictating what can, and cannot, appear on the net.

    But don’t worry…Pron is safe! Senators and congressmen can’t live without it!

    • Of course man, you’ve got it absolutely right.
      Down with streaming content, no webcam chat, youtube, or internet radio for you! Possibly even no Steam and Team Fortress 2 or other bandwidth-hogging games like RTSes and FPSes too if your provider doesn’t want. And absolutely no Bittorrent, it’s all illegal even if it’s a file from NASA or a Linux distro that they’re trying to give away for free!

        • Will do. Was thinking more along the lines of corporations ruling everything and specialized mercenary groups that hire out to them to steal and kill, but I’m not putting the magic thing out of the picture just yet. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  7. I still think Google has the muscle and the desire to absolutely destroy any internet provider if its necessary to protect the freedom of the internet

    that and im pretty sure you dont fuck with the internet

      • Do I have to say more than China? Do I actually have to finish the wisecrack about Google’s ability to deal with politics?