The Fast Lane, The Slow Lane, and The No Lane

Since its emergence as a commercial platform in the early 90s, the Internet has treated each bit equally as it makes its way over the “last mile” to your home or office. If you put up a web server and write a game that anyone could play, those bits will be treated equally with the bits coming from IBM’s web servers. There has been no fast lane or slow lane on the last mile of the commercial Internet. We have had a level playing field and that has resulted in an explosion of entrepreneurial innovation that has been very rewarding for entrepreneurs, investors, and society as a whole.

But that period of “permissionless innovation” is likely to come to an end soon if we all let it. The FCC has responded to a court ruling by proposing a convoluted set of rules that will allow fast lanes, slow lanes, and what’s even worse, no lanes. The FCC’s proposal will allow the telcos and cable companies that provide the last mile connection to your home or office to prioritize some bits over others. That’s how they create the fast lane and the slow lane. It also allows discrimination in which they can decide not to allow your bits through at all, creating a “no lane”.

Many, including a fair number of folks on this blog, have argued that we should not “regulate the Internet” and we have to allow the last mile providers to do what is necessary to make money. Sadly, we have already regulated the last mile of the Internet and have given local duopolies around the country to telcos and cable companies. For most citizens in this country, you have two choices for the Internet connection in your home. You can buy it from your phone company. Or you can buy it from your cable company. If there were dozens of choices for last mile connectivity, I would also argue for no regulation and let the market figure this out. But there is not enough competition in the last mile market to allow a true market to function. Instead we will have terms of service dictated to us and these providers will extract rents from all service providers on the Internet and the era when anyone could launch something and compete on a level playing field with the incumbents will be over.

Here’s what you need to do about this:

1) You need to be very clear that you will not accept fast lanes, slow lanes, and no lanes on the commercial Internet. A good start would be signing this White House Petition before May 15th. But you will need to do more. This rallying cry must be sustained until we rid the FCC of the idea that fast lanes, slow lanes, and no lanes are OK.

2) You need to “plug into” the Internet activists who are building the opposition to fast lanes and slow lanes. A good start would be to follow this facebook feed. I will point out others on this blog as the fight plan emerges.

3) You need to watch the FCC’s proposed rules that will be aired to the public on May 15th to see if they are going to consider “reclassification”. If they do not, we all need to rise up and go into action against these proposed rules. Because without “reclassification”, the FCC really cannot protect us from the last mile duopolies who are hell bent to build these lanes on the Internet and destroy the golden era of Internet innovation that we have experienced over the past twenty years. We cannot allow that to happen.


Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    In the UK we have British Telecom. It has Openreach. That allows for any provider to use the physical telecoms infrastructure to our homes and businesses to deliver their own services (internet connection, telephone connection, et.c.). We choose, we pay, they deliver, and BT takes a wholesale fee.

    1. fredwilson

      that was supposed to be the way that the Telecom Reform Act of the late 90s was going to work. the telcos undermined it and it never happened here.

      1. jason wright

        and so the FCC has been captured by corporate interests. Isn’t that the American way of things? Not trying to be provocative, but that’s how the US generally seems to be – very unbalanced.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Economic Prof George Stigler (RIP) would agree with you. One of these days we will get AVC’ers to be advocates of the Chicago School…He also challenged the long-held assumption among many economists that when markets are less than “perfect,” monopolistic forces tend to exist all over the economy, with consumer interests sacrificed for the benefit of a few, big, highly concentrated firms and industries• In a series of theoretical and empirical studies, Stigler was able to prove that as long as government doesn’t bestow privileges guaranteeing producers protection from competition, the market economy is an inherently rivalrous arena, and one that is very responsive to changing consumer demands.Finally, Stigler pioneered research in the field of government regulatory policy. The standard view, again, was that certain industries are inherently uncompetitive; therefore, it was believed necessary for government to regulate their pricing and production policies for the public good. Stigler argued that rather than serving the public good, regulatory agencies invariably came under the control of the industries they were to regulate. All the economic incentives were for the regulated companies to devote time and resources to “capture” the agencies, and then use them to limit entry into their market and to set prices favorable to themselves. Stigler demonstrated that when left free from government oversight, these sectors of the economy were usually as open and competitive as any other.

      2. SubstrateUndertow

        When I watch American news, Republicans are always harping on the importance of NATIONAL SECURITY.Yet conveniently exempted from their NATIONAL SECURITY priorities are:- a strong/competitive internet infrastructure- sustaining a cohesive fabric of American in-house industrial production- promoting a distribution of wealth/power/education//control that is sustainable

  2. William Mougayar

    Well, in Canada, we don’t have that issue yet. All we have is slow lanes, and slower lanes.

    1. JamesHRH

      A good buddy says ‘ it’s not high speed internet, it’s just speed. ‘

      1. Salt Shaker

        Perhaps a new context for the term “speed kills” (or in this case, lack thereof)?

      2. JLM

        .Speaking of speed I have1 gig Internet service which I get just fine downstream from the router on a laptop with no problem.I get 600 down 350 up through a Dell Optiplex 960 with 1 gig network card and 4 i5 3.3 ghz processors. I have a Cat 4 ethernet cable.I can’t figure out what else to check other than the actual ethernet connections to see if they support 1 gig.Anybody have any suggestions?JLM.

        1. Elia Freedman

          It’s likely 1 gig max and your actual speed varies depending on neighborhood size, distance from station, etc. the numbers quoted are very misleading, generally.

          1. LE

            He said he is doing fine right at the router so the problem has been isolated to between the router and his desktop or is the desktop or something in between (cables, switches etc.) See my other comment.

          2. Elia Freedman

            Oh, you are right. My apologies. (I should wake up first before answering questions.)

          3. JLM

            .I am getting 900mps downstream from the router on the same ethernet cable which connects to the computer.JLM

          4. LE

            Are you are getting 900 Mbps on:a) The exact same cable that is currently hooked up to the Dell with all the switches.b) A cable “just like” the one you have hooked up to the Dell. Meaning not the exact cable (length, kinks, defects etc.)Further, you mean your laptop is hooked up to the router with a cat 4 cable, right?Above isn’t complete enough to isolate the issue.I suggest the tests that I mentioned in my other comments.

          5. JLM

            .Exact same cable at same cable connection point. I think it is a Cat 5. But it is delivering 900 up/down.The laptop is connected in exactly the same spot as the computer.JLM.

          6. Leapy

            Perhaps malware is hogging bandwidth on your desktop PC? That would affect your perceived speed.

          7. Leapy

            Also – try booting into an operating system from USB stick and see if you still get the issue. at least you will know if this is software or hardware issue on your desktop PC. there are plenty of USB-specific linux distributions to choose from

          8. JLM

            .I am getting 900mps up and down with a laptop at the same connection point as my computer — downstream from the router.It has to be something inside the computer.I have the quad i5 processors running at 3.3 ghz, a 1 gig NIC card and using the same ethernet cable. So it doesn’t look like it should be the hardware.The cable company can’t explain it to me.JLM.

          9. LE

            The cable company can’t explain it to me.Cable company in no way can get involved in “the last 50 feet” of your network connection.In fact it’s to their advantage to have people who aren’t even smart enough to think about that, lest they get pulled into diagnosing and wasting times on things that they aren’t in a position to fix. [1] People’s networks are a clusterfuck. Equipment and software is a clusterfuck.This was actually the basis of the “demarcation” point when Bell divested.Bell used to take care of inside wiring, phones, etc.But when dereg happened (mid 80’s) the demarc point was created and telco was only responsible to that point. If things tested to that point “ok” then it was your problem (unless you purchased some kind of inside wiring insurance which many offered).The way you are describing it your problem appears to be totally fixable as long as you can isolate the weak link(s).One other test you can do is take a cat 5 cable that is long enough to stretch directly from your router to you desktop (without switches and hubs) and see the speed you get with that. Making sure it’s as short as possible. (Might negate the need for the Dell schlep test.)Like the Orange one in the picture below. Which is about 50 feet.[1] Re-read I’m serious about this. Sometimes you need dumb people on the front lines.

          10. JLM

            .I’ve already done that. The same cable for the laptop test is the one for the computer. The router sits on top of the computer.The cable company wants to figure it out also as they have to be able to tell people what to do. This probably their 10th 1 gig installation in all of Austin.JLM.

          11. LE

            The cable company wants to figure it out alsoIf the cable company can plug into your router (like you said you can do) and get good speeds it is figured out already!They will simply add some verbiage to their marketing materials which essentially says “your old red car will not corner like my new porsche just because you put the same Pirellis on it”.

          12. JLM

            .Cable company gets the same performance from their laptop as I do from mine.They want to be able to alert folks about other hardware implications.JLM.

        2. Vasudev Ram

          Not sure if I get what you’re looking for, but you may want to check this if you don’t know it already:

          1. Vasudev Ram

            That will show you the actual speed you are getting from your connection, in Mbps. To find out if any of the hardware components in your network are the limiting factor, you’d have to look up their specs or consult a hardware technician or knowledgeable friend.

          2. JLM

            .Yes, this is what is showing me the 900mps up/down when I attach a laptop at the same connection point — downstream from the router. I know it’s there but I just can’t get it through the computer.I have quad i5 3.3 ghz processors, a 1 gig NIC and the same ethernet cable used to achieve 900mps.I am using and Oookla for the speed testing.JLM.

          3. Vasudev Ram

            Elimination (or isolation as LE put it) is the first step in troubleshooting (be it hardware or software). If possible, try to swap out the Dell for a roughly similar machine (say, ask a friend who has one to bring it over) and check the Internet speed you get with that. If you get good speed both with your laptop and with your friend’s PC (using the same cable and plugged into the same ports, mind you) (but not with your Dell), it points to an issue with the Dell (or some component in it), or with crapware as LE said. Get a good latest antimalware (they don’t call them antivirus software nowadays because there are also other kinds of malware these days), clean your machine thoroughly with it. And schedule it to run at regular intervals (for the future, that is.). Calling Dell could be another option even if you don’t have a maintenance contract, many companies do one-off support calls. Or call a local PC technician or support firm.For the future: avoid downloading software tools [1] (not saying you do it, just maybe), because many of them are infested with crapware that keeps running in the background and slows down a machine.[1] Avoid, that is, except for those you strictly need, and even then try to use only those which are from known reputable vendors. Always scan (with your antimalware package) ANY file you download, not just software packages or package installers – I even scan PDFs, DOC(X) files, etc. They can contain malware too, or at least avenues for exploits. If you read PDFs a lot, you may want to get Foxit PDF Reader. It’s free.RevoUninstaller (free) (use with caution) may also be useful to completely remove unwanted software from your machine, including the last traces of the package from the registry (whether it is some software you installed yourself but don’t need now, or some crapware that got installed without your knowing it, when you installed some other packages. Many vendors do that, unfortunately.).Oh, and post your question on They are often very helpful. I’ve gotten some difficult Windows desktop software problems solved that way. BTW, though unrelated to your issue, is a site for Q&A about software problems (including those to do with hardware – user problems, not programmer problems). It’s one of the sites in the Stack Exchange network, which I believe is one of the companies in USV’s portfolio.

        3. LE

          I have a Cat 4 ethernet cable.You probably mean cat 5, right? (But you might want to try cat 6 not like it’s a big investment). Read all the stuff about cable kinking etc.Since you said the laptop hooked up to the router allows you to pull “just fine” here is what I would do to diagnose the problem (and then go further).a) Hook the Dell up to the router like you did the laptop. So shlep it to the router and see what speed you get there.b) Hook the laptop up where the Dell is now. Note what speeds you get.See what you get with those two tests in order to attempt to isolate the issue.Could be a bunch of things (switches, hubs, cable issues etc.) no way without testing. Or of course the Dell, network card etc.Isolating the issue is always the first step. Then you can take action to fix it.

          1. JLM

            .Router sits on top of the computer, so no moving necessary.I get 600 down and 350 up — varies a bit. Still blinding speed.I have quad i5 processors at 3.3 ghz, everyone says that is blazing fast. It is a Dell Optiplex 980 which is a few years old but still a good machine though from before the days of 1 gig service.I have a 1 gig NIC (network interface card).The same ethernet cable used for the laptop tests is connected to the computer.One guy suggested it might be the actual computer connection hardware? It is an ethernet connection organic to the computer. Someone else said it is a “dumb” connection not like a USB. I just don’t know.JLM.

          2. LE

            It is an ethernet connection organic to the computer. Someone else said it is a “dumb” connection not like a USB.Bottom line appears to be you are using (just checked ebay) a machine which can now be purchased for $200+-. I think the easiest way to solve this issue is to upgrade your hardware at this point.But if you want you could do the following though:Buy a new ethernet card and install (not that expensive and returnable)It’s entirely possible that other parts of the hardware are not capable of supporting the speed that you can get regardless of whether they are supposed to be able to do that or not.Personally if it were me I’d just buy a new computer and be done with the issue.Edit: Could also be some crapware thing going on that is slowing things down of course.

          3. JLM

            .Is the ethernet card different from the network interface card?JLM.

          4. LE

            The same thing.See:…Sounds like you said you already have a “1 Gig NIC” so I was saying to buy another one just for testing purposes. I don’t think this will solve your issue but it’s worth it for testing and returnable so why not.

          5. JLM

            .Got it. Makes sense.JLM.

          6. Girish Mehta

            Same. But on the OptiPlex you have integrated networking (chip on the motherboard…Intel Gigabit LAN), whereas what LE is suggesting now is to install a discrete network card assuming you have an empty slot. Dell has been integrating networking on the motherboard of Optiplex desktops for nearly 20 years…so unless you separately picked a discrete card when you bought this PC, you currently have on-board networking.This issue was more common in past with Gigabit Ethernet on PCI Bus – Gigabit Ethernet translates to 125 MB/sec and the PCI Bus supported max 133 MB/sec…but since the PCI Bus was a shared architecture, that bandwidth was shared with other devices on the same Bus, and your networking throughput could get constrained. However, thats not an issue for past several years with PCI-Express 1.0 – which has 250 MB/sec which is not shared. Your OptiPlex just *might* have a legacy PCI slot (for backward compatability reasons for corporates), but the networking is running off PCI-Express which is not a bottleneck.Assuming you are using Cat 5/5e cable and not Cat 4 with the desktop…my suggestion would actually go the other way – to test how often you are repeatably getting 1Gbps with the laptop. It might be ‘anchoring’ you to an expectation that is not realistically repeatable often :-). I am not in the US…but, usually, real world broadband speeds are less than the maximum – and 600/350 sounds great !

          7. JLM

            .Makes sense thanks. The machine is about 3-4 years old.The laptop is consistently getting 900mps up and down.Thanks. Thank you very much.JLM.

        4. sigmaalgebra

          My motherboard has 10/100/1000 Ethernet, thus, 1 GbE, and just an RJ-45 (or whatever it is) socket, and I’ve seen no info that a special cable is needed, that is, a cable other than the likely CAT 5 that comes with common Ethernet cables.Your 4 core I5 with a 3.3 GHz clock is fast; it’s not so clear that there is anything much faster, i.e., I haven’t heard of any 10 GHz clocks yet.Net, if anything can handle 1 GbE, your setup should be able to also.Heck, I have a 1.8 GHz, 32 bit, single core AMD processor that, as it was going out of date, could be bought for $30, new, quantity 1, retail. It plays DVDs and YouTube clips fine but drops some frames with some video, especially if try to display full screen. I should be working and not watching movies or spending money at NetFlix anyway.

      3. William Mougayar

        Like the old Letterman joke that his show was just like the “Information SuperHighway”, but without the information.

  3. awaldstein

    I’d like to see some local politicians weigh in on the blog on this.Too many either don’t understand or are hiding from this. Gavin Newsom is an exception.

    1. pointsnfigures

      good luck. few understand it, and politicians don’t like to take a stand unless they know the world is already behind them.

      1. awaldstein

        He was on Bill Maher on Friday. Upfront and informed on this. Surprised me but it was refreshing.

  4. Tom Labus

    Google Fiber and a lot other ones too

  5. thebigmix

    This is quite shocking. What has the narrative been to this point? is it a security argument? Or a profit argument? How is a theft from society at this scale being justified?

  6. Guest

    I hear this Internet thing is going to be small.

  7. LaMarEstaba

    Tried to sign the White House petition and was told that I need to reset my password due to Heartbleed. Interesting.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Liban Mahamed

        Fred, this is very, very important. The internet trafic is as necessary as getting light and water, pure necessary utility for life and business. You need a regulator here If not it will be a jungle Big fat monopolies will eat the restWithout net neutrality comcast and others will favor in house and partner products and services. It is just the fact. Every company does this.Comcast etc are today’s Rockefellers and standard oil. Pure monopolies.I live is Seattle Are there separate petitions city by city or the is for everyone.This is a good cause Not many understand or follow But very critical for everyoneThank you very much for your effort

  8. lostdiaspora

    I think the tone is quite moderate given that what’s really at stake is the US giving up its technological lead in the interests of short term corporate interests and rent seeking behaviour. Anyone spot the turkeys voting for Xmas? I think Europe will resist as it’s generally been better at defending against this sort of behaviour and Asia will be a mixed bag. Where the investment has been made this is unlikely to happen, less developed markets may succumb. Why not make the bandwidth hogs invest in the infrastructure, making it better for everyone rather than line the pockets of underinvesting telco’s? That would be real progress and avoid the tragedy of the commons this proposal almost certainly will induce.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      Literally – digital highway robbery !

  9. JLM

    .Let me state the obvious, this is happening because we have an Administration opposed to free market capitalistic forces.I do not suggest they are unsympathetic. I suggest they are incompetent. Not to be able to see the power of the market in this issue is the evidence that such ideas fall on deaf ears. It is tone deafness and incompetence substantially more than policy.They are not engaged and therefore initiatives which might never get out of the cradle are allowed to gorge on goofy ideas and become strong, almost inevitable notions.This is one more example of why elections matter, why capitalism as an element of political governance matters and why a small pinch of regulation is important.The rationing of ideas by regulating the last mile is an abridgement of entrepreneurial zeal, job creation and creativity — all capitalist drivers.This happens when you fundamentally oppose capitalism.JLM.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I don’t like Obama any more (or less) than you. I think this started ahead of the Obama administration-probably back in the Clinton administration when the internet started. Of course, they used precedent from FCC rules set up by FDR. It’s pretty obvious that the rules for all communication our out of step with the marketplace-sounds like Obamacare, the SEC, USDA etc etc etc.

      1. JLM

        .I’m sure you are right but it doesn’t matter where it starts, it’s where it ends.JLM.

  10. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Interesting! This past week during a visit to Waterloo I was briefly introduced to a company which I believes delivers the analytics to Cable service providers to allow them to make this decision. At the time I didn’t think of this as enabling multitiered internet access but I suppose it does.

  11. kenberger

    You wore a black suit (and tie) yesterday on stage. Mourning this topic?

      1. JLM

        .A tie?Say it ain’t so, Joe.JLM.

  12. andyswan

    You’re arguing for regulation because the consequences of that legislation are so limiting.”we have already regulated the last mile of the Internet and have given local duopolies around the country to telcos and cable companies….” and “If there were dozens of choices for last mile connectivity, I would also argue for no regulation and let the market figure this out.”To me this is a bizarre reaction to the regulations that have given us so little choice.It seems very plausible to me that if we just stop giving duopoly status to these providers, and allow others to enter the market without regulation, we would very likely see the same kind of “explosion of entrepreneurial innovation” on the provider side as we’ve seen on the app side.For example…. why is my family’s internet 50% slower (or twice as expensive as it should be) due to porn, netflix, and P2P consumption, when we have no use for one and have to try to buy and use firewalls to try to block the others from our childrens’ devices?I’m SURE there is a huge market out there for people that don’t want to subsidize everyone else’s internet activities. I don’t know why so-called entrepreneurs are so hell bent on keeping competition and innovation out of the provider;dr Sorry but if you’re watching 4 hours of netflix and 2 hours of live xbox per night, you should probably be paying more than my mom who wants her email and wikipedia to work.

    1. fredwilson

      Unfortunately what you advocate for is impossible. It will never happen

      1. andyswan

        That’s the “least-Fred” statement I’ve ever seen you write.

      2. PhilipSugar

        I agree with this and your post.It’s a physical issue. In the old town where I live you only have one choice, a third tier cable company. Not even Comcast, Time Warner, or Verizon.There are some things that you need government for and this is one.If government had strung the last mile then maybe it would work, but they haven’t. So you have duopoly’s and that is the way it is. They received the government right of way and they should be regulated because of that.As far as the companies. It is clear that they are not happy being a “dumb pipe” that quote from Ed Whiticare was telling: “why should google being making all of this money using our pipes”

      3. Xavier Faure

        In France, telecom is one of the few industries that have been regulated correctly. In short, every telco is forced by law to open its physical layer to other players.This has led to fierce competition between 4 phone companies (and a number of virtual operators) for the benefits of consumers. Basically you pay 20€ (28 bucks) per month for triple play (internet, phone and tv over ip) or 30-35€ for quadruple play (including 3G mobile).Unfortunatley, some concentration is currently occurring as one of the phone company is being acquired by a cable operator 🙁

        1. ShanaC

          !!!!!! I wish that was available in NY

      4. Donnie Kelly

        I think he’s advocating for usage based billing – which is the ultimate consequence of what you are advocating. The startups you fund that won’t have to pay gatekeepers – but consumers will if content is bandwidth heavy.And how have we “given” the market to duopolies? You could start an ISP if you wanted to and trench roads and put up cables — isn’t that what Google Fiber is doing? Alternatively, municipalities could put their own fiber into the ground and lease it to companies who want to market broadband service.

    2. William Mougayar

      What you are describing is price arbitrage, and the ISPs already have those kinds of variations in plans. I don’t think it’s tied to regulation.It’s part of their marketing / product segmentation tactics, no?

      1. pointsnfigures

        In principle, I agree with Andy. Gary Becker (RIP) and Coase (RIP) would have found a market based solution to the problem-eliminating government would be the start. Andy is paying for things he doesn’t want, and things to block things he doesn’t want. That’s a cost not calculated by FCC regs and accountants. But, it’s a true opportunity cost.

      2. andyswan

        I have only seen plans that cap stream speed not total data used.

        1. William Mougayar

          ah, we have both in canada.

    3. LE

      Sorry but if you’re watching 4 hours of netflixAfter my FIOS went out for a night I was surprised to find that I could actually stream Netflix acceptably at a lower bit rate over my Verizon LTE on an ipad mini. (You go into account settings and adjust so it doesn’t suck up so much bandwidth..)

    4. sigmaalgebra

      I suspect not: I suspect that the costs to the ISP have next to nothing to do with the maximum bandwidth offered to each user. That is, if an ISP has deployed equipment to offer, say, 45 Mbps download bandwidth to any user who wants to pay a little extra, then the user actually using that bandwidth doesn’t have significant cost. That is, the ISP’s costs are capex and opex but then nearly independent of what users actually use.All the traffic will be going over the same ‘backbone’, to the same peering centers, etc., anyway.Instead the ‘lanes’ just look like a way to charge based not on costs to the ISP but to ‘value’ to the user. So, have basically the same one service but charge some customers more than others based on what the customer is doing.Yes, if no customer wanted NetFlix, etc. data rates, then the ISP’s new capex could be lower, but that point is nearly moot since one way or another the data rates will be growing and the capex will be needed.Also to a large extent for the capex, we’re talking the last mile. For that, say, a cable company, we’re talking coax anyway, and the data rate of coax is enough to send a few hundred TV channels all at the same time. So, likely the coax in the ground and the rest of the last mile equipment and capex are essentially the same whatever the data rates are.Or, just where does a higher data rate really cost the ISP more in either capex or opex? A few places, some, yes, but not everywhere.Or, my cable modem went poof, and my ISP put in a new one. As I recall, between my desktop and the cable modem, the data rate is 1 Gbps. Why not just 100 Mbps? Because now the 1 Gbps is the standard, occasionally needed, promises to last longer as data rates increase, and the ISP would rather just standardize on just one cable modem for everyone. The extra cost for a modem with 1 Gbps versus just 100 Mbps? Likely and apparently zip, zilch, and zero. So, from my computer, we go 1 Gbps port on my computer, RJ-45 CAT 5 Ethernet cable to the cable modem at 1 Gbps, a cable modem talking to my computer at 1 Gbps, the cable modem talking to coax cable able to handle hundreds of TV channels at once or everyone in my neighborhood watching HD of ‘Debbie Does Dallas’ or whatever, off to some neighborhood mux, off to the local office and a big router and then via a link to the backbone, and then into the backbone or some such. In this, a huge fraction of the capex and opex, brick and mortar, customer service staff, maintenance trucks, billing, etc. are independent of data rates to individual users.For the backbone capex we’re talking what, getting a right of way and laying some cables, done long ago. The cables, let’s see, have maybe 144 fibers per cable. Each fiber can carry some dozens of frequencies, from a quick check, maybe 90 frequencies, via ‘dense wavelength division multiplexing’ (DWDM) . Each frequency can carry, apparently, commonly, 40 Gpbs. With less dense WDM, maybe get 100 Gbps per wavelength. From high end research efforts, likely get 1 Tbps+ per wavelength.So, if more data rate is needed, add some frequencies to a fiber or light another fiber. Eventually, light another cable. Net, the capex is in the ground already, and using higher data rate costs very little more.

  13. Andrew Kennedy

    Amen. I am not on fbook so please do list other activists.

  14. Kenny Harshbarger


  15. Robert Heiblim

    I agree with your view Fred, but the question is also not easy. Who pays for the network upgrades needed to keep pace with the growing use of video and other data intensives? Unlike wireless or broadcast, the MSOs networks were built out by them, so can they be forced to carry content that might slow performance to their users? or to spend money to maintain a service that is not theirs? What may be needed is a public network but that does not seem in the cards. Do we trade privacy and our data use for access in Google type networks? We all need and want unfettered access to allow innovative services indeed, but these questions are not so black and white in our capitalistic environment. What is a balanced answer?

    1. fredwilson

      i like what they do in the UK with Openreach (mentioned above) and what the Telecom Reform Act of the late 90s was supposed to do. if the owners of the last mile infrastructure are required to provide wholesale service to any and all competitors, then we could have a very vibrant market for last mile internet here in the US

      1. Robert Heiblim

        Yes, that is correct but won’t that lead to a meter on total bandwidth use? Is that the longer term solution, metered plans or prepaid data from firms such as Beat Music is doing on ATT?

      2. LE

        if the owners of the last mile infrastructure are required to provide wholesale service to any and all competitors, then we could have a very vibrant market for last mile internet here in the USIf I understand what you are saying that is similar to what happened with electricity whereby they separated the delivery from the power generation.But yet I still go through the local legacy electric system because there doesn’t appear to be enough competition to make it worth my while to switch.Separately, the people who dug the cables and jackhammered the sidewalks did enter into contracts and take risks in order to be in a position to benefit in the future. So I’m not sure in all honesty that that should just be taken away.

      3. Leapy

        Not only this, but Openreach itself can be unplugged altogether. UK ISP’s have a right to put their own hardware into any telephone exchange and connect directly into the street connections.

        1. Leapy

          For example – this is the listing for our local telephone exchange indicating which ISPs have chosen to put their own kit in the exchange. I use Zen Internet who are “ticked” on the right hand side.…At the bottom is the regulator’s statement:”Ofcom ClassificationMarket 3Four or more ‘principal’ operators provide broadband services at this exchange. Service in this area has been deregulated!”

  16. falicon

    Mobile also already has these lanes…thanks mostly to the existence of app stores…at this point it’s not clear how to get back to open highways and no speed limits…

    1. kidmercury

      and that customers still choose native apps over HTML 5 speaks volumes as to what customers care about

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      But mobile has a physics-enforced bandwidth-scarcity which make some financially-based bandwidth-remediation necessary ?

  17. Aviah Laor

    “Never was so much sucked out of so many by so few” (or something like that, can’t remember exactly)

  18. curtissumpter

    This issue is so important. I’m worried that the people in DC just don’t get how important it is. They’re literally messing with the central nervous system of society without what I fear is any real appreciation for the multi-wave impacts that it will continue to have. This is not good.

  19. Richard

    What seems to be becoming increasingly clear is that advertising dollars and video content have a relationship that is as strong as ever. So we know where the ad dollars are going and so do the last mile providers. Give them credit for figuring this out.

  20. baba12

    Apartheid on the Internet and sponsored by the State. How awesome is that. It took 50 years for America to join the boycott of South Africa for their Apartheid policies.How long will it take for the U.S citizens to challenge their own government to stop Apartheid of the Internet.Now I know many here will say that is not accurate and that I am a kook…Lets see how the rules around how bits get delivered to the individual first, second, last or not at all discriminate on the basis of economics i.e. content providers will have to pay higher prices to get their stuff ahead or even just in the pipe. The content providers will pass that rate increase to their customers. Now it just happens that those who are on the lower rung of the economic ladder are the ones who get discriminated again as they wont be able to afford to pay for premium service deliveries.Ah the ways we find to continue to suppress and even find ways to justify it is amazing… we have evolved and

  21. howardlindzon

    frightening how this is shaping up like the wire services pre twitter…..decades of shit and walls if we are not careful…HFT’S OF INFORMATION.

  22. markslater

    sorry but isn’t wireless meshing the answer?this sounds not disimilar to the monopolization of wireless messaging (SMS) – we innovated the shit out of that corner and now look at it?lets float some frikin mesh baloons and unshackle from these sucubuses..

    1. fredwilson

      yes, in the long run that is absolutely the answer. and IPV6 on every phone my partner Albert talked about that recently on his blog… however, i am not sure we will get that quickly enough to make it the right answer in the short run

      1. Elia Freedman

        From a competitive perspective, yes. except wireless has never been held to net neutrality rules.

      2. JamesHRH

        The last mile cats are, let’s say, stubborn, when it comes to adding new suppliers to their industry.

    2. ShanaC

      what would happen in a hurricane though?

      1. markslater

        no internet. like today!

  23. Matt Quirion

    We, as folks who understand these things, need to move the conversation away from “innovation” and like terms and start making the general population of the nation more aware of the fact that this is a primary Main Street Issue of our time. As soon as we use “innovation” or the like, regular folks hear “Silicon Valley Billionaires” and shut off. What we need to do is frame the discussion around the fact that an internet with fast lanes and slow lanes means an internet that hobbles the ability of your local PTA to communicate. It inhibits your church’s pastor from spreading his message. It makes it more expensive for your favorite local baker to do business. It creates costs for your small credit union.We need to make the country aware of the fact that the internet is no longer a new, fancy thing that is only the domain of young millionaires and folks “wasting their time” on Twitter. We need to make the country aware of the fact that the internet is now as vital to the nation as a free press and/or the printed book, and that these new FCC proposals threaten that vitality.

  24. Salt Shaker

    Not sure what I’m missing here; perhaps it’s plain ole naïveté. The MSO’s and telcos have been segmenting their consumer offerings for years. How/why is this gonna be any different? You wanna stream porn, You Tube, Netflix, etc., then you should pay a price premium, just like one pays a premium price (by choice) for services like HBO, SHO, etc. Why should the MSO’s/telcos underwrite the cost of network upgrades and increase in data usage that solely benefit a handful of content providers?Regardless of what regulatory issues are passed, the consumer will ultimately end up bearing the cost….We always do…though in this case I’m hopeful it’s a la carte or use based.

  25. Pat Clark

    “Net Neutrality” needs better branding, in my opinion.

    1. fredwilson

      yesssss. note that i did not use that term once in this post. i am trying out some new messaging.

      1. Pat Clark

        Ha. I did — especially when I tried to Control-F to find the term to make sure I spelled it correctly! Fast Lane / Slow Lane is the most succinct description I’ve read. The “No Lane” is the complex part and as you state, critical.

  26. Elia Freedman

    This is a very difficult issue for the average person to wrap their head’s around. The idea of making all services equal (when most people use few web-based companies or services) or making it possible for some potential future competitor to compete and provide better services is not a concept most people care about or think about. They do care about getting Netflix, though, and getting it now and to most people that’s what the ruling is. We need marketing help to figure out how to promote our position on this. The arguments I’ve heard so far aren’t going to sway enough people.

  27. ErikSchwartz

    A CDN with edge servers located with the ISP is a fast lane. Without CDNs we go back to small crappy video.

  28. LukeG

    Anyone know how far away viable, performant mesh networking is?

  29. Andrew Lee

    There are actually many cases where the internet has not treated each bit equally in the past, and often for good reasons. For example, on airline flights you are blocked from using Netflix and other streaming services in order to save that bandwidth for more high-value-per-byte use cases. Google actually has a program in developing countries where they work with local wireless carriers to provide very low cost internet service — in exchange for throttling and blocking some of the more bandwidth-heavy uses of it. Even Google fiber has restrictions around what you’re allowed to do with that fiber (you can’t run servers) in order to make it economically viable for Google to run the service. There are also lots of times when it makes sense to block traffic for security reasons — a syn flood for instance.There are many new technologies that may require special handling on the network to be practical: telemedicine is one example. It would be unfortunate to kill these innovations before they got off the ground for the sake of stopping a perceived threat that has yet to do much real damage.I think our core internet infrastructure is ripe for disruption, and adding regulation is only going to protect incumbents. I’d rather see better last mile alternatives pop up: drones, ptp laser, mesh networks, etc.

    1. kidmercury

      #realtalk #upvoted

    2. SubstrateUndertow

      Working around bandwidth scarcity is sometimes a remedial necessity.It should never be the primary goal of a nation’s internet topography !

      1. Donna Brewington White

        I don’t think bandwidth is the point. Something more essential is at stake here.

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          Agreed !Its the political choke points on bandwidth.

    3. MA

      For telemedicine we can increase capacity for all or discriminate Capacity is better for allFor blocking malware sure. But that’s like saying self defense is legal so we should legalize hit menDoubtful this will help the incumbents since they oppose itDrones etc are a long way off and European experience shows competition among ISPs won’t stop discrimination.

  30. Dave W Baldwin

    Based on the either/or, the negative would be slowing what most users have now to charge more for what is already there. If the reg were to involve charging more for something new (thinking business needs) would allow those who don’t need everything to continue uninterrupted.Then add a sunset to reg for future review.

  31. Dan

    There was a related petition back in January that got the 100k signatures, thus a formal response. I don’t have an informed enough opinion (part of the problem) to be able to look at the White House’s response and read between the lines.https://petitions.whitehous…This part of the White House response seems particularly relevant for this group:”Preserving an open Internet is vital not just to the free flow of information, but also to promoting innovation and economic productivity. Because of its openness, the Internet has allowed entrepreneurs — with just a small amount of seed money or a modest grant — to take their innovative ideas from the garage or the dorm room to every corner of the Earth, building companies, creating jobs, improving vital services, and fostering even more innovation along the way.”How does this play with the FCC proposal? Does anyone know what the relationship between Obama and Wheeler is these days?

    1. Nick Grossman

      the FCC is trying to say that that they are still supporting the “open internet”, but just doing their best with the weak legal hand they can play under their current authority (which includes a requirement to allow access fees).so the issue is forcing them to take the hard step of reclassifying internet access as a “communications service” (rather than an “information service”), which would give them the authority to do it correctly and simply.

      1. Dan

        Gotcha. Thanks Nick.

      2. ShanaC

        that would be easier.

  32. Donna Brewington White

    In my life’s experience, there has been one place that has truly been a level playing field. Let’s keep it that way.— Donna White (@donnawhite:disqus ) May 6, 2014

  33. Frank W. Miller

    How is metering it at the bit level different from selling customers different speed pipes (which they already do)? I pay extra for upgraded bandwidth. What’s the difference?

  34. Fred Goldstein

    The first sentence in the article is simply false. There has never been a network neutrality rule, and bits on the Internet have never all been treated the same. What that would be is common carriage, and that was the rule for the circuits that ISPs purchased, not the Internet itself, which is legally content, and thus protected by freedom of the press, including the right to not carry something.If all bits were equal, spammers would have free access to the backbone.too (and spamming is legal, thanks to the YES-YOU-CAN-SPAM Act). Likewise Russian crackers, denial-of-service attackers, and writers of bad software that congest for no good reason. Those have always been blocked.Arguing for regulation of the Internet itself is counterproductive. The regulation should be of the access circuits, to allow open choice of ISPs. If there were a choice, then ISPs would block what their customers wanted blocked and put resources where it did their customers the most good. Instead we have companies trying to game the system to get cheaper connections by fearmongering. You don’t want a regulated Internet — it would pick up the bad aspects of the telephone system, but be much much less reliable. You want open access, so the retail Internet becomes competitive again.

  35. ShanaC

    What are the odds going in for reclassification?

  36. deancollins

    agree that if the FCC wants to implement this then it must also be combined with the implementation of multi party competition – if I was in Sydney I could sign up with 1 of 20 different ISP’s…….here in NYC….leader of the free world I have version dsl and time warner cable.hey Fred…….time to put your money where your mouth is and fund a point to point wireless internet service…..?

  37. sigmaalgebra

    Okay, just sent a FAX toCongressman Chris Gibson, Ph.D., NY19referencing and agreeing with Fred’s post here, mentioning my Internet startup and the importance of Internet businesses for the economies of the US and the Mid-Hudson Valley, and asking that the FCC be guided back to a reasonable version of ‘network neutrality’.

  38. george

    If you really want results, build a pro internet lobby group to fight this inside-out, that’s how to win the persuasion game.

  39. Ciaran

    What’s fascinating is how many of the largest ‘public’ (i.e. privately owned or floated) companies have benefited from massive public subsidy, particularly in the area of media and communications. I’d thoroughly recommend people take a look at this book to get a feel for this

  40. Siminoff

    What really needs to be done is that the last mile needs to go back into the hands of good companies that have to compete for customers.Either using Kickstarter directly or creating a platform like it to gather neighborhoods to put up their own infrastructure and last mile that then can be directly connected to the backbone.I would be happy to pay for “clean” bandwidth at my home and business.I do not trust the government or the current last mile providers to do what is right. There are many efficient ways to deliver last mile bandwidth and it is time in my opinion that the crowd and local entrepreneurs take this situation into their own hands.

  41. Guest

    Talk vs. Action: who is prepared to boycott (buy, access, etc) anything traveling a possible FCC fast lane?

  42. bfeld

    Your post inspired an idea that is a SOPA/PIPA like approach so that consumers can understand the implications (since no one really knows what net neutrality means anymore and it’s regularly being “redefined” by those trying to change it.)…

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. That is exactly why I wrote it. I wanted to get people thinking about a more mainstream approach to this issue. I am happy to see that happening

  43. Sean Hull

    My feeling is innovation loves constraint.Back in the 90’s I managed to do a heck of a lot with the internet, using a 14.4 connection and then later a DSL connection. This is probably slower than the slowest lane net neutrality my birth. This isn’t even to mention back in the 80’s when I used 75baud coupler modem. It was roughly the speed you could type at. Ascii art ftw!I do agree that firms which provide bandwidth have to run a viable business, and sometimes that means prioritizing traffic. We do it with transportation, planes, trains & automobiles. Why not internet?I agree that non-prioritized packets is better for innovation & better for end users. But this all must be balanced with economics.I guess I’m feeling contrarian today… But Fred, I also think you’re wrong about Apple:

  44. TGGP

    The FCC only put “net neutrality” regulations in place in 2010. Why expect the future to be so different from the past? I completely agree that the local cable monopolies are a big problem, but the track record is mostly one of charging high prices and giving poor customer service. The violations of neutrality I’ve heard of were generally short-lived in response to consumer backlash.Regardless of how the downsides are manifested, trying to reform away from the local monopoly model seems like a better goal.

  45. mm

    I don’t like the idea of “lanes” as well. But perhaps rather than having a blanket prohibition of any “lanes”, a sensible mechanism giving ISPs some control over their bandwidth usage might make sense. Example:An ISP could start “redirecting” traffic from a service/company X to a “slower lane” if the overall network traffic from that service represented more than Y% (e.g. 3%) of overall traffic in the ISP’s networks.Before putting such a service into the slow lane, the ISP would have to give the affected company a 30 day notice. Moreover, ISP would have to offer the affected company a default option to stay in the “first lane” under the terms announced by some government agency (e.g. $ per Gigabyte). Or the companies could negotiate a different deal.With such or similarly defined legislation, practically all startups and the majority of other companies would not have to worry about being downgraded to some sort of slow lanes. The innovation could continue to flourish. Only wildly successful companies would be affected and only to a limited degree. I personally would see it as fair if Google/Youtube or Netflix had to pony up some $ for distribution of their content.Below is a table with the current U.S. traffic distribution. With a 3% limit, only very few companies would be affected.

  46. Mark Wallace

    My clicktivism as proven futile. I can’t create an account on because the email verification email never shows up. Not sure if its a widespread issue with the petition or the site.

  47. Robert Went

    Hasn’t this always been the case anyway? I pay for a 10mbit connection as I need it for work. Why should my neighbours all get the same speed without paying for it and potentially slowing down my connection? In England I think broardband connection speeds have always been limited by the package that you buy.

  48. Dean

    Wonderful points! I also love Vi Hart’s take on the issue in her always quirky way. Definitely worth watching at

  49. simonzee1

    Hollywood is one of the biggest lobbyists for FCC “Fast Lane” changes to end net neutrality. It is all about reverse engineering content controls…Hollywood Director says Hollywood has no soul.…What do you expect when they have discriminated against Conservative script writers for well over 30 years…Hollywood is full of illiberal lefty Democrats that have no soul and pretend to be our moral teachers.They have a huge influence over the Whitehouse.…They are key backers of the “Fast and Furious,” legislation so that they with the Obama administration can reverse engineer the internet for content and political purposes.And so it is no accident that a Hollywood lobbyists runs the FCC.

  50. fredwilson

    yeah, i sort of agree. but just getting someone to say “i am for this” is a good start. the activism part (#2) is clearly more important.

  51. William Mougayar

    You need to mobilize before taking action. The online step helps to coalesce support.

  52. Matt Zagaja

    As someone who interned in a Congressional office, if the petition was delivered and had names and addresses of constituents it was duly recorded in the system as if each constituent had written a letter on the issue and an appropriate response rendered. If it’s on an issue not covered by the current files then appropriate staff time is dedicated to researching and formulating a position on the issue. It might not change minds but can get people to pay attention and consider a view more deeply.

  53. Donna Brewington White

    This is a place to start. I just posted some of the links on FB and this will be the first time that many of my “friends” will have heard about this. They may start with a reactionary click and sign because they are alarmed. (Some will ignore.) And it will be a start. Either people think about things or they don’t. Either way I want their signature to help empower (and buy some time for) those who do.

  54. Rob Underwood

    I agree, though like Fred says in another comment, it’s a place to start.The politics of it aside I think this is what made Occupy different. It wasn’t just “clicktivism” but people going out into the streets and putting themselves at risk for what they believe.The shift to “clicktivism” in the last 10-15 years often brings to mind this classic Woody Allen clip for me —…I really hope everyone who reads AVC will consider taking the actions suggested today and those suggested on Saturday re the MayOne SuperPAC.

  55. jason wright

    then clicktivism is the new voting.

  56. Medicalquack

    I’m with you with online petitions as well. The whole White House anymore is just one big giant template anymore too. I just wonder when folks will get tired of filling in online information and surveys and say the heck with it. It’s the virtual worlds here running interference with the real world. I still think writing a Congressman directly via email, even though that’s not perfect either, seems to get a little more attention.How long can you keep people satisfied with filling out forms online I guess is the question.

  57. awaldstein

    1% or so of people act on what they believe, comment on what they read on blogs. Having a vehicle to let them raise the water level is community market at its core.

  58. Matt Zagaja

    I agree. There is a great panel discussion on digital politics from Harvard on SoundCloud discussing this:

  59. JLM

    .You have to educate first.JLM.

  60. jason wright

    innovate around the issue. i may be beginning to sound like a broken record, but i have great hopes for the approach at the heart of Project Ara, and i’m expecting modules to appear that will change how we connect to the internet and to each other.

  61. William Mougayar

    agreed.advocates educate each other too. it’s lateral, not top-down only.

  62. baba12

    EDUMACATE but the bits for education are going to be slowed down and thus edumacation wont get delivered in time….it will be dated…just like the text books would be a few years/decades behind in some schools

  63. SubstrateUndertow

    That is why so much money is spent on lobbyists and political advertisements.One man’s education is another man’s propaganda !That’s why MEDIA ECOLOGY should be a mandatory subject in high schools.MEDIA ECOLOGY:All the ways we use Communications-Technologies to sway the beliefs and feelings of others.

  64. sigmaalgebra

    To paraphrase, education and a gun work a lot better than education alone. :-)!Similarly for education and money, education and votes, education and power, etc.

  65. JLM

    .If one doesn’t identify the turd in the punch bowl, everybody just keeps drinking punch.JLM.

  66. Donna Brewington White


  67. Richard

    I wrote my congressman a month ago (Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles). He took the time to write me and follow up on an important issue. You are correct.

  68. baba12

    Unfortunately that process you describe is just that, to let people know that your views/opinions were recorded. In reality we have not necessarily gotten the change we want cuz the individuals petition was just recorded, the petitioner did not provide $$$$ to go along with the petition and thus it isnt acted upon.We can all take solace that the system works and there is a process but it does not necessarily deliver.A petition signed by Joe Schmo is not valued as a petition signed by Jamie Dimon…

  69. ShanaC

    This seems to be bad for young people, who don’t always live in the same place all the time.

  70. William Mougayar

    where do you come up with these analogies?

  71. PhilipSugar

    That is a good new twist to a quote I use a bunch. Going to use that in the MN office today.

  72. sigmaalgebra

    Is that what they drink in Texas? Good to know in case I visit! :-)!

  73. JLM

    .Keen, insightful observation of the human condition and an aversion to drinking punch with turds in it.Always check the punch bowl.JLM.

  74. awaldstein

    Great scene.

  75. baba12

    We will get there, as the inequality divide widens further, eventually people will find that there isnt any more room and they have nothing to loose, then they will get their hands dirty…

  76. bsoist

    You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies – all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies- Steve Martin

  77. sigmaalgebra

    Woody would be better off playing with his strengths, joining the women in the clip, and writing humor and satire in the NYT; Woody, violence, not a good combination!

  78. Matt Zagaja

    Money is valuable. Support and votes are more valuable.

  79. baba12

    That was true a while back, but in the last elections for Congress, more people voted Democrat than Republican yet Republicans have a majority in the house. They say it is due to re-districting that allows for entrenching of elected representatives. Things don’t change even if you want it, the amount of money involved seems to be having a major impact on public policy that benefits a few.There is generally a certain level of apathy in the masses as they don’t seem to be affected on a daily basis. When that changes then the apathy will go away, for now there is enough fat in the system to allow apathy to sustain.

  80. pointsnfigures

    come to illinois. they steal plenty of democratic votes here and redistrict to eliminate republicans. gerrymandering happens on both sides of the aisle. btw, dems get more money than republicans.the issue fred is talking about jumps both aisles, and is more regulatory than legislative

  81. ShanaC

    that has to do with districting. it is why there will be more republican controlled states this year.

  82. William Mougayar

    Have you thought about publishing an e-book listing of JLMisms?

  83. sigmaalgebra

    Life in the Lone Star State:”There’s a turd in my cup of punch!””Quiet! The others will want one, too!”.

  84. Andrew Kennedy

    Well played

  85. JLM

    .I did publish the Big Red Rules by the Big Red Car on scribd.com…I think there are two booklets.JLM.

  86. baba12

    my point wasn’t about Dem’s or Republicans. My point being that democracy isn’t necessarily working in the public’s interests.

  87. Matt Zagaja

    Ultimately the gate is not that high, they just check to see if the person mailing is a constituent because they do not have staff or budget to handle out of district feedback (and those individuals have their own representative). The real disadvantage of being mobile or transient is that you kind of lose the opportunity to build up a relationship with your member by attending events and meetings since you’re constantly living in different places.

  88. ShanaC

    I actually need to switch districts. I also do not have a relationship with my congressperson. I wish I did

  89. sigmaalgebra

    There is a lot in the movies; they are, nearly necessarily, good at finding and displaying the popular culture at the time.

  90. William Mougayar