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Ask Slashdot: Taking a New Tack On Net Neutrality? 185

Posted by timothy
from the bad-idea-is-putting-it-lightly dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I am the IT director for a large rental property company that owns approximately 15,000 apartments in college towns across America. The board of directors has tasked me with exploring whether we can 'privatize' our network (we provide network access as part of rent in all of our properties) and charge certain commercial entities for access to our residents. Right now the network is more or less open, except that we block access (by court order) to certain sites at the request of various copyright holders. Specifically, they are interested in targeting commercial providers of services directed at college students, such as textbook rental firms, online booksellers, and so on. With approximately 35,000 residents, I guess they are thinking there is a substantial profit to be made here. Personally I don't like it one bit, but I thought I would ping Slashdot for thoughtful opinions. I imagine the phones will start ringing off the hook if students suddenly lose access to places like Amazon.com. I think it has 'bad idea' written all over it. What do you think?"
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Ask Slashdot: Taking a New Tack On Net Neutrality?

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  • Captive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 01, 2014 @09:48AM (#47140709)

    Are you saying they want to hold them captive to only the sites you want them to go to for profit sake? The kids will just rebel and bring in their own access...

    • Re:Captive? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @09:52AM (#47140739) Homepage Journal

      Or just use his bandwidth for vpn access.

    • Re:Captive? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['ish' in gap]> on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:14AM (#47140825)

      My read is that their intent is a little more targeted: find 10-15 companies that specifically target college students with online services like textbook rental, and find some way to siphon off a portion of those companies' revenue stream in return for "delivering" them access to the 15k users. Then leave the rest of the web unfiltered. This is essentially the model of net-non-neutrality ISPs have been using with Netflix, but in a "softer" sense, where it isn't actually blocked, but service is degraded. They leave most sites alone (because there's no money in them), and go after a handful of potential cash cows for a cut of the revenue.

      My guess is that this company saw what ISPs have been doing with Netflix, and wonder if it's possible to do with other sectors than video streaming, too. It's harder to do with non-bandwidth-intensive sites, though. An ISP can soft-block Netflix by just degrading the access, and even have some plausible deniability (blame Netflix's ISP or servers for the poor performance), which some people will believe. But a textbook rental site doesn't need streaming HD video levels of bandwidth, so you might have to block them entirely to make this scheme work. And people will notice/complain about that much more.

      • Re:Captive? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @11:38AM (#47141239)

        My read is that their intent is a little more targeted:

        That is what I understood as well.

        (1) The ethics of this are more than just questionable. Service is already part of rent, as they acknowledge. It isn't "free". And the people who run the network now want to double-dip, Comcast-style, by charging the other end of the link as well.

        (2) It is also probably unworkable. For a mere 35,000 students, companies like Amazon and so on would tell them to FOAD.

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          What they actually want to do is secretly up the rent by externalising the cost. By establishing artificial internet access monopolies who will have to charge their tenants extra for the goods provided, they can pay the artificial monopoly costs. Basically their intent is to stick it too their tenants and hide the extra costs.

          Really why dick about, simply block secure internet payment protocols and demand all payments be made via a service nominated and charge 20% tariff on payments, then claim it is a s

          • What they actually want to do is secretly up the rent by externalising the cost. By establishing artificial internet access monopolies who will have to charge their tenants extra for the goods provided, they can pay the artificial monopoly costs. Basically their intent is to stick it too their tenants and hide the extra costs.

            That's true. But they're trying to stick it to their tenants two different ways. By charging outside services to access their tenants, they're making their tenants pay even more than before. Because those services will pas the higher operating costs on to their customers.

            It's very much like a sales tax. My parents used to own a retail store. My mother used to get very exasperated about when the state an local municipality increased business taxes or fees that were supposed to tax the "rich business owner

            • Pardon me. Editing problem. I meant to delete the "sales tax" part. It wasn't sales taxes I was referring to, but other business taxes like income taxes, licensing fees, etc.
          • by stenvar (2789879)

            What they actually want to do is secretly up the rent by
            externalising the cost. By establishing artificial internet access monopolies who will have to charge their tenants extra for the goods provided, they can pay the artificial monopoly costs. Basically their intent is to stick it too their tenants and hide the extra costs.

            "Internet access monopolies"? "Monopoly costs"? "Externalizing the cost"? Cut the crap.

            They offer apartments for rent, and they are considering cutting back service in order to make mo

            • Re:Captive? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by tragedy (27079) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @01:30PM (#47141841)

              Anybody who doesn't like what they are doing can rent somewhere else. If their college has an exclusive contract with them (unlikely but possible), people can choose a different college.

              I was going to methodically criticize this sentence but then I realized I shouldn't need to. Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what's wrong with the idea that the easy remedy to this sort of thing for consumers is to "choose a different college"!

              • by HiThere (15173)

                Given the housing market near most colleges that's probably true. It's also probably true that most entering students won't have checked that the "network access" promissed didn't mean internet access. Entering freshmen are still gullible enough to be a favored target of military recruiters.

                Yes, there WILL be individual students who will check before signing, but finding housing before you arrive at school isn't the world's easiest proposition. So the ones that would have ended up in a dorm will still en

        • by Chelloveck (14643)

          My read of it is slightly more favorable, though still not good. There are marketing firms which specifically target college students. I'm sure that as a property management firm which also targets college students they already have contacts with the marketing firms. It sounds to me like they want to sell ad space to said firms, who would then resell it to their advertisers. The ads would probably be injected by hijacking DNS requests and using transparent HTTP proxies, not unlike what some hotels and "fre

        • by tomhath (637240)

          And the people who run the network now want to double-dip, Comcast-style,

          No, it's more like buying a DVD and being forced to watch commercials before the video starts. If nothing else the tenant should have an opt-out option to get their own ISP and a reduction in rent.

      • by Wycliffe (116160)

        One way to bring in revenue like this without "breaking the internet" would be with banner ads.
        If there is a login page for net access, you could have banners to your "preferred" companies.
        As an ISP it would also be easy to insert BN.com ads into the html on amazon.com or even
        wrap amazon.com in a frame. Another possibility would be playing with the DNS where when
        someone went to amazon.com, it "suggested" another alternative before letting them continue
        thru to amazon.com. I'm not saying these are good idea

  • site blocking? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @09:49AM (#47140719) Homepage Journal

    Ok, its OT, but since when did US courts start mandating blocking of sites by ISPs?

    Back on topic, it should not be hard to come up with the numbers and present it to management. Forget the 'it will be a bad idea' as it will only make you look disgruntled and biased, all they care about is raw numbers.

    • Re:site blocking? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:17AM (#47140837)

      > Right now the network is more or less open, except that we block access (by court order) to certain sites at the request of various copyright holder

      Look into the history of DMCA "takedown orders". It can get quite odd: take a look at https://torrentfreak.com/fox-d... [torrentfreak.com] for how mentioning the takedown orders can lead to a takedown order.

    • Ok, its OT, but since when did US courts start mandating blocking of sites by ISPs?

      I have never heard of this happening, and I think it would have been big news if it had happened. So if it is true, why haven't we heard about it? If it is not true, then why is the submitter saying that it is?

      Back on topic, it should not be hard to come up with the numbers and present it to management.

      The most important number to present is the number of websites willing to negotiate a contract and pay to be accessible to a micro-ISP with 35k geographically dispersed customers. I am pretty sure it is this number: 0.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        Sure, lots of individual file "take downs" happens every day, but the only thing i have heard that is close to a site block, is when the DOJ kills a site, but its not really the same thing.

        I agree, it seems odd that this guy is talking about it but no one else has heard of it ( here in the US at least ). Makes the entire post suspect.

  • That would suck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreenK (33311) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @09:55AM (#47140747)

    Do you do the same with the phone system or TV channels? Are commercial numbers or OTA channels (by way of shared antenna) blocked unless there is a kickback of profit? I'd be super pissed finding someone messing with internet, phone, or TV. I think we put up with legal requests if made by court order and for health of the network somewhat but not just for profit.

  • by CrankyFool (680025) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @09:59AM (#47140765)

    Other people have already commented on the relatively horrifying moral considerations, and some have noted that college students will figure out other ways to get their access. There's one thing that I haven't seen addressed yet: The sites you really care about, the ones that are very very popular, simply don't care about a hostage population of 35,000 students. You see news of Netflix signing deals with Comcast, and some of your management people think they could get Netflix to give them some money as well ... well, they won't. And I can't imagine Chegg (or, HA, Amazon) doing so either. It A) doesn't materially benefit them; and B) starts a horrifying precedent that they'll negotiate with ANYONE.

    • by west (39918) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @11:01AM (#47141051)

      They're not going to extract money from the sites with millions of visitors. They *may* be able to extract money from sites whose entire revenue generating visitors are college students, like textbook stores.

      I doubt 15,000 students is enough, but it could get very "interesting" if they offered to funnel any visits to a competing text book site to the highest bidder.

      Certainly a maximum evil model. You make paying for Internet access mandatory (i.e. include it in rent), and see how far you can push the students before they consider it worth-while to pay *again* for Internet access. I'm going to guess pretty far.

      • by N1AK (864906)
        You'd also better be very clear that the internet use included in the rent isn't actually full internet access, and sites that the users are likely to want may be blocked. If I rented a property that advertised internet and then blocked things I wanted because the service wouldn't accept the extortion you can bet I'd be finding a lawyer and discussing with as many other students as possible going for a class action for misselling.

        You likely do considerably better by doing a deal with providers to adverti
        • by sjames (1099) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @11:50AM (#47141315) Homepage

          They should make sure none of those students are studying law. It might make a great case for use in class. Suddenly there's a world class lawyer advising the residents.

        • by west (39918) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @03:28PM (#47142477)

          Somehow, I'm pretty certain that in the rental agreement on page 15, in small print, in paragraph 7 section 5 of the Terms of Service, it will have something that a lawyer could interpret as allowing this sort of behavior and the renters will sign.

          Sure, if the students are annoyed enough, they might not come back next year, but the wonderful thing (from their perspective) is there's a whole new year of students to fleece.

          Thinking on it, it's not textbooks that they should go after, it's pizza places. Try and reach any local pizza place, and you get transferred to Frank's pizza special page, which has a student special of only $3 more for pizzas ordered from that page :-).

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      It depends on how big that 35,000 students is on their total market. For some sites (Netflix) it's nothing. For other, it may be a large portion.

      • by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @01:05PM (#47141697)

        You also have to keep in mind, there are probably a hundred similar rental companies in the same situation. They probably have an industry group, and can band together to offer a million captive college students across the nation. Now they have the size to get special attention.

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          For a whole association it's even harder to pull off such an extortion than for a single company due to politics (not every member will be interested in doing this for various reasons) and technical issues (many will have outsourced Internet service for starters).

          Besides, what's stopping those students to just use their mobile phone for Internet connection if they can't to the sites they want to? That students are a major market for certain sites, also means the students want to access the sites. Blocking a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:00AM (#47140767)

    If you provide network access as part of your rent, you provide network access as part of your rent, period.

    You may consider deals with additional sites that are only accessible from dedicated networks, like some online publishers offering downloadable journals/papers at blanket rates for universities.

    It is unlikely that any of those will pay you, however. It is rather additional value you can offer to your students. It's possible that you can advertise promotions for that kind of thing (like when they are made available for four weeks on your network) on a central network information site and get percentages either for the promotions or for subscriptions reached through them.

    But blocking anything that is normally free: no go. You have to try monetizing the inverse.

    • by deniable (76198)
      Exactly. This is a technical solution to a marketing / admin issue. This should be handled by the suits, not at the network level. Probably some sort of group discount with the landlords / pimps getting a kick-back.
    • by Radak (126696)

      If you provide network access as part of your rent, you provide network access as part of your rent, period.

      It's not really that simple. My apartment provides water as part of my rent. If I start filling swimming pools, they're going to get upset. I realize this is more akin to data caps on internet access rather than net neutrality, but the point is that "providing network access" isn't completely cut and dry. If some service is provided with a property rental, and not billed separately by consumption, the renter does have some rights to restrict the use of said service, especially in cases where the tenant

      • by Rutulian (171771)

        Since water is billed by consumption and Internet usually is not, that comparison is not really relevant.

        • by Radak (126696)

          Except that in my example (which is my real life), water is not billed by consumption. My water comes with my rent, no matter how much I use. But I'm sure it's still "unlimited" just as "unlimited" net connections are. However, the leasing company doesn't tell me that I can use water to bathe, but not to make tea, so that's really where my comparison falls apart.

          Regardless, the point was more about the renter of a property having some rights, even if unwise to exercise, to control the use of resources th

          • by Rutulian (171771)

            Water is not billed to you by consumption because in many places that is illegal. It is billed to your apartment complex ( ie property owner) by consumption, though. The Internet connection is almost certainly not. It is a flat rate to them and should be a flat rate to you as well.

            • by Radak (126696)

              Okay, that is a valid point. I wasn't thinking one level higher about the difference.

      • They won't ignore it, because it sets a horrid precedent. A few letters to the school about the students' landlords deliberately interfering with access to the school's subject matter would be only the start of the legal and social issues. Even if it's not settled by lawsuit, it's the sort of quality of service issue that comes up at contract renewals and approvals for off-campus housing accreditation needed to allow direct rent payment from grants or student loans.

        • by tragedy (27079)

          The problem is, most US Universities have long histories of cynically abusing their students as captive markets for textbooks and other products and services. Most people in university administration have no problem with, for example, mandating which texbooks students must use based on which will earn the University bookstore, the publisher, etc. more money rather than which textbooks are actually better for learning.

          • If the money went to the university, I'd agree with you. This does not, and cuts into the publisher's profit margins by attempt to charge the publishers for the bandwidth the textbooks would class services would use.

            The universities and colleges will get very upset.

      • by sir-gold (949031)

        This would be more like the apartment complex demanding that you have to pay extra to drink out of a yellow cup instead of a red cup

  • by Entrope (68843) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:09AM (#47140797) Homepage

    You hopefully have some idea of the internal politics about the request -- whether this is something that a majority of the directors strongly wants to do, whether they are just curious, or whether they are leaning towards the idea but could be swayed. Take advantage of that in your response! Be respectful of their intentions, and don't go out of your way to antagonize either supporters or opponents of the idea, but you can either influence the decision or at least register your concerns.

    If you are opposed to the idea (would you ask Slashdot otherwise?), point out the technical and legal considerations in carrying it out. Explain the extent of technical methods to prevent tech-savvy young students from using VPNs and other proxies to access the blocked sites. If this means you need to upgrade your network infrastructure with newer or beefier routers, put a dollar figure on that. Find polls of how consumers view this kind of network filtering, with bonus points if the polls focus on or break out your renters' demographic group, and point out the risk to revenue. If you don't know the regulatory risks and potential tort claims in detail, outline them at a high level and recommend that the company retain legal counsel to advise on those things.

    Because you're the IT guy, they probably view you as a subject matter expert, and you can use that authority to guide their thinking. Just keep in mind the audience for your report, and respond in a way that shows respect for both their level(s) of technical background and their business objectives.

  • You could do this completely dick move, but be sure never to describe what you are offering as internet service, nor be deceptive when advertising so as to make tenants think you are providing internet service. It would be akin to advertising free cable when the only channels on that "cable" are CCTV of your board of directors masturbating over the idea of "mad profitz".
  • You have a boss (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:14AM (#47140821)

    You have been asked to "explore" the possibility. Bluntly put, they are asking your expert opinion. And that should include the following:

    1. Technical challenges: do you need to buy new routers/software? How can you implement billing?

    2. Costs: What additional tech support will be required. You would be derelict in your duty if you don't at least estimate how many phone calls at 20 minutes each at $xxx/hour must be answered.

    3. Tenant response (if any). Would people move out? Would there be a lawsuit (even if you win, lawsuits are expensive...)

    I suggest that you do your job and explore this carefully and honestly. Slashdot is the first step in a brutal assignment (I don't think #1 is trivial). You are a professional...they don't pay you for a political opinion and they need some real technical insight.

    Once you have the entire picture, review it with some board members one on one.

    I bet there is an internal fight in the boardroom and you may find a few people praying you will come back and say: "It will cost $35 million dollars a year, we will face civil litigation for the next five years, and lose 10% of our long term tenants." Of course, if the board figures they will make $350 million a year you will be setting up the network.
         

    • Re:You have a boss (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pla (258480) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @11:02AM (#47141065) Journal
      You are a professional...they don't pay you for a political opinion and they need some real technical insight.

      First, "just do your job" counts as a piss-poor attitude. If you work as a minimum wage burger flipper, yeah, your employer has no expectation of you to actually think for yourself. If you work as a highly educated IT professional, your employer expects you to understand the current events in your profession, and have an informed opinion on the same.

      That said, although Washington has done its best to make net neutrality into a political issue, it really doesn't have anything to do with politics. It has to do with routing around damage. Net Neutrality means nothing more and nothing less than letting the internet function properly. Violating that at the behest of the highest bidder breaks the proper functioning of the internet. Simple as that.

      The FP author's problem comes entirely from how to explain the above to clueless PHBs who see nothing but dollar signs. And perhaps they do have a clue, and really want to know the downside to what superficially looks like a good idea.

      So the right answer to your question, as others have said - Get them their numbers. Keep the tone factual. And take heart, you get to insert your expert opinions in the selection of appropriate hardware and in raising peripheral issues such as liability for not actually delivering what your renters pay for. Perhaps more than anyone else, you have the power to make this sound like a simple set of QOS rules, or a massive (and correspondingly expensive infrastructure upgrade).
  • > Specifically, they are interested in targeting commercial providers of services directed at college students, such as textbook rental firms, online booksellers, and so on. With approximately 35,000 residents,

    All of these provide relatively static content, not streaming content. Low bandwidth will simply not affect their business models, especially since the big bandwidth users are the streaming services, gaming, and Bittorrent in most of your resident's homes, If you've the expertise and equipment to even consider this kind of throttling, you should have some network monitors already in place to verify this claim, or you should be able to justify getting a loan of a network traffic monitor for just such analysis. And given the overwhelming bandwidth use of such high bandwidth applications, the relatively low bandwidth needs of textbooks and other critical student specific services won't even notice the loss of quality service unless you effectively block them.

    If you block them entirely, the book publishers can call the FCC and contact the schools and their clients, and they _will_ get upset with you. They can also contact your upstream ISP, who will be very unhappy with you muscling into their bandwidth throttling "turf".

  • Hopefully they'll have plenty of pre-law students filing law suits on 1a grounds, unfair competition and whatever else they can think of as at will be A) good practice for them and, more importantly, B) costly for the property company.
  • by mfh (56) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:16AM (#47140833) Journal

    There are so many reasons that colleges and universities should step way back from network monitoring but the best one I can think of to sell it to your school, is one of limiting liability. If the school is monitoring all network traffic and tying it to students, then they are totally responsible for any safety incidents that occur from a preventative standpoint. Legally speaking a victim of any crime could then sue the school if they failed to prevent anything. As it stands now a school is responsible for anything that happens on their grounds but they can't really be sued directly for something like Columbine, that I am aware of. If the network monitoring goes live and there are manifestos posted through the school internet that go unnoticed, then the school is going to be hit with massive lawsuits down the road... plus the expense of having to monitor that information.

    Because from my perspective, paying an ISP to run traffic back and forth is CHEAP. Monitoring a network is VERY EXPENSIVE.

    What's the payoff for schools? You might think it's some sinister reason, but I can assure you this is some very angry person in the IT dept or somewhere in the school who merely enjoys feeling powerful so they are pushing this kind of authoritarian agenda just to flex their muscles. There is not one shred of financial reasoning to take on all that insurance risk... and God forbid the insurance people find a loophole if shit goes down on the campus or even off campus.

    Then you have your would-be novelists. Imagine what Tom Clancy's internet history looks like.

    tl:dr; schools that follow any student's browsing habits become responsible for whatever that student does or APPEARS to do

    • by Pop69 (700500)
      Tom Clancy has a blank internet history at the moment, what with him being dead and all....
      • by mfh (56)

        History doesn't disappear simply because you die. Consider that too, for a moment.

  • Not a large amount of bandwidth involved. If I am a student there all I will do is activate the MyFi on my phone. Why breach a firewall when you can step around it?

  • by hey! (33014) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:27AM (#47140881) Homepage Journal

    Which I guess under the circumstances is pretty predictable.

    I guess where I'd start is with the facts. I'd build a model for how much it would cost, additional staff needed, how much it would bring in, support (and under the circumstances enforcement) costs, what competitors the users could turn to, what the content providers would be willing to pay (if anything) etc. I wouldn't do the new business idea any favors; I'd be objective and hard-nosed about it as possible. If the new service selling your residents to content providers isn't going to be profitable, then the whole idea goes no farther.

    It's a safe bet that the business wouldn't be as profitable as the directors think, simply because it's usually a lot harder to make money in an unfamiliar business than you hoped it would be. It's easy enough in the abstract to believe the new idea will be like printing money, but in fact you're still trying to get people to part with their money, which is going to cost you *your* money. And you think, "Gee we got 15,000 customers, we can charge content providers a pretty penny for access." But is 15000 so large a potential customer base that content providers will adjust to a new way of doing business just for *you*? The big guys like Apple and Netflix and Amazon will probably just laugh at you and leave you twisting slowly, slowly in the wind rather than pay you a dime and invite every two-bit Internet baron to shake them down too. So maybe contact some of the big guys and just ask them how much they'd be willing to pay up and what kinds of services they'd expect in return. Those services are important!!! It's usually the unanticipated support costs that kill gold-egg-laying IT geese.

    As for the small guys, well, they probably don't have much money to cough up. But it'd still be worth contacting some local business that needs access to your 15000 customers and taking them for a test shakedown, just to show you were a good soldier and looked in the sofa cushions for loose change. That kind of pathetic detail often drives home the futility of a hare-brained scheme. People when they come up with a brainstorm like this imagine piles of money-for-nuthin rolling in, so a bit of a reality check is healthy.

    In other words, I would start with due diligence before you contemplate waving the bloody shirt. If, against all expectation, the idea proves to be promising, well I'd discreetly get an idea how your existing customers will react to having some of the Internet sites they need throttled. Remember, you're dealing with the dream of money-for-nuthin. Your job, your responsibility to your employers is to show them what it will really cost them in money, headaches and reputation.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      But it'd still be worth contacting some local business that needs access to your 15000 customers and taking them for a test shakedown, just to show you were a good soldier and looked in the sofa cushions for loose change.

      Part of the problem you face there, is that the summary mentions "college towns across America". So if you're dealing with a business to whom these 15,000 are important, you're talking about a national business, and unless it's highly specialised it'll be too big to care about you.

      On the other hand, any local business is local (and "local" I read as "operating in one town or less"), which means any local business would target no more than a fraction of the 15,000: the faction that happens to live in that to

    • In economics (see public choice theory), rent-seeking is spending wealth on political lobbying to increase one's share of existing wealth without creating wealth.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org]

      Stop using economic terms you don't understand. This is a business decision in a competitive market. It's probably a lousy business decision that will anger customers and lead to loss of revenue, but it's still just a business decision. If you don't like it, don't do business with them, nobody is forcing you.

      • by dcollins (135727)

        Another option: Lobby for regulation to make this kind of move against the communications utility illegal.

      • by hey! (33014)

        You mean stop disagreeing with Wikipedia.

      • Rent-seeking

        Cutting yourself a bigger slice of the cake rather than making the cake bigger. Trying to make more money without producing more for customers. Classic examples of rent-seeking, a phrase coined by an economist, Gordon Tullock, include:

        a protection racket, in which the gang takes a cut from the shopkeeper's PROFIT;
        a CARTEL of FIRMS agreeing to raise PRICES;
        a UNION demanding higher WAGES without offering any increase in PRODUCTIVITY;
        lobbying the GOVERNMENT for tax, spending or regulatory policies that benefit the lobbyists at the expense of taxpayers or consumers or some other rivals.
        Whether legal or illegal, as they do not create any value, rent-seeking activities can impose large costs on an economy.

        Source The Economist Magazine Dictionary of Economic Terms [economist.com]. I can cite many other sources, but I'm posting this from a phone so you can Google them yourself.

        The Wikipedia article is about the rent seeking as described in Anne Kreuger's well-known 1974 paper. However that is only one example of how investors attempt to seek higher than normal profits without creating any utility, which is the more general sense of the word.

        • by stenvar (2789879)

          However that is only one example of how investors attempt to seek higher than normal profits without creating any utility, which is the more general sense of the word.

          Nope, sorry, it's not. The Economist explanation is vague, but if you look at the examples, you see that in each case the customer is forced to engage in business transactions that are disadvantageous to them. The Economist's use of the term is only "more general" in that it includes illegal force in addition to legal force.

          Nobody is forcing a

      • by Mr.CRC (2330444)

        Nobody accepts "nobody is forcing you" in the religion of statism. Everything is political. Like the poster who suggests lobbying for more regulations to deal with this. The same people will bitch about the NSA, and never get the cognitive dissonance involved.

        If you feed the beast, you have fed the beast, and will have to live with the consequences.

        Anyone in today's world who believes any "regulatory" legislation is going to work out in their favor (unless they are the big money paying for it) is a foo

      • I'm back at my computer so here you go:

        "Rent seeking is the socially costly pursuit of wealth transfers" -- The Encyclopedia of Public Choice, Rowley, Charles, Schneider, Friedrich (Eds.), Springer-Verlag 2003.

        "Definition of 'Rent-Seeking' When a company, organization or individual uses their resources to obtain an economic gain from others without reciprocating any benefits back to society through wealth creation." -- Investopedia, http://www.investopedia.com/te... [investopedia.com], Accessed June 1 2014.

        "The idea that res

        • by stenvar (2789879)

          In other words while rent-seeking in the sense of Anne Krueger's 1974 paper still continues to be an active area of research, the term is used differently in wider areas of economic research.

          Your problem is that you don't understand what those definitions actually mean. None of those definitions apply to this situation.

          a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner

          There is

          • by hey! (33014)

            Well, whether the situation fits the various definitions is a judgment call. It depends on whether you perceive what the property company is doing as productive, or exploiting their middleman position to extort fees they've done nothing to earn -- an activity which would fit all the definitions I listed. I'll leave that up to other readers, since we clearly differ on issues of substance as well as terminology.

            a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivial

            • by stenvar (2789879)

              It depends on whether you perceive what the property company is doing as productive, or exploiting their middleman position to extort fees they've done nothing to earn

              Offering you a pile of sh*t for $1000 doesn't make me a "rent seeker", it merely makes me a bad businessman. It only becomes rent seeking (via extortion) if I put a gun to your head and force you to buy it.

              The company can't "extort" anything because their customers can simply move. And it's up to their customers to decide whether the company i

  • A landlord can't say to UPS nice packages. It would be a shame if something happened to them before the tenants got em. Come let's talk? My uncle has a special insurance program to prevent accidents like this from happening.

    That is extortion and interference with interstate commerce. Who the hell does Netflix have for their lawyers. ... Now for the poster mention liability costs. Netflix and the textbook companies won't take this standing down!

    • by Rutulian (171771)

      Net neutrality concerns aside, unless this is a very unusual apartment complex, they are not an ISP!!! They contract to an ISP to provide Internet access to their tenants. Sure, they control the routers and and do some basic filtering, but they aren't really in a position to dictate peering terms and such.

      35,000 across multiple college towns is very large? Maybe relative to other apartment complex owners, but relative to the total student population they are nothing.

  • Charge them ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rambo Tribble (1273454) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @10:50AM (#47140993)

    ... and they will flee. If those who provide services are charged more, they will pass those costs to the students. If the students are forced to pay more, they'll do their online ordering on free wifi at the coffee shop, (and look for a cheaper place to live). By providing network access, you are providing a useful service that enhances the appeal of you rentals. Diminish the quality or value of that service, and you diminish the value of your rental.

  • I suppose this restriction will be mentioned in the rent contact, right? Because I would not count this sort of service as "internet" access and I would have to go to another ISP for the real thing, provided that it's not against the terms and conditions of the rent contract, in which case I would look for another apartment. It better be an otherwise kick ass apartment in order to persuade ageek to live there, unless your target group is something else.

  • How exactly do you plan on doing this? Would you block access by default and only allow a whitelist of sites that have paid your ransom to allow access? Or would you only block sites that you've targeted as "sites that we want to pay us" and then only unblock them when they've paid? And what technical methods would you use for blocking?

    How would you select which companies you'd like to pay you, and how would you approach them? Like would you block Amazon? And if so, is your plan to just email their cu

  • Given that your job is to protect the company from making loss as much as help it make profit, you can quite safely say no. For starters it's a legal quagmire because it's tied into rent, this gets a multiplier if you are a multi state operation, I imagine getting a legal opinion in every state you operate is going to cost you. Plus the time to maintain it, and that added service desk calls. Add to that how much it would cost to successfully defend at least one class action lawsuit by an ambitious college l
  • The BOD must think it is comparable to selling lists of phone numbers to telemarketers, but the internet doesn't work that way. The total college student population in the US is of order 20 million - how are they going to get companies to pay attention to a diddly-squat ISP that wants to control access to 35,000 - 0.2% of the potential market?

  • Let's assume you could get $10 per resident in payments from your "customers" -- that's $350,000k per year.

    Is that even enough to pay for the networking gear and integration necessary to implement your filtering? Management/monitoring/configuration?

    It seems like making it worthwhile would require $100 per resident, and I don't see how large vendors (Netflix) would ever pay that much for a relatively small population, and it's too much for niche sites for whom your residents are a larger portion of their cu

  • Worst idea ever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @11:36AM (#47141229)

    Look at what you're meant to be providing: The access to the internet that they've already paid for, yet you're blocking sites that people would normally get with other ISPs, and so could reasonably expect access to with yours.

    If you go ahead with this, you need to split the internet out of the rent, and specify in your contract up-front that you're blocking exactly those services that sudents are most likely to need. If you don't you're at least morally and also probably legally in the wrong to even advertise it as "internet access included"

    Look at who you are targetting. Students. Exactly the group most likely to:
    a: Need full value for money.
    b: Be filled with (justified) righteous indignation and protest most vocally in a unified way.
    c: Find a way around it (e.g. use coffeeshop internet instead, or more likely find some way to hack it, eg. its acutally simple to find/use a proxy). The fact that thats exactly what people in countries with oppressive governments have to do will be used to make your comapny look like psycopathic idiots.
    d: Fire off a lawsuit driven by legal students (i.e. start a legal war of attrition that not only doesn't cost them anything to fight, they might even get course credits for)
    e: Complain en masse to the universities, who will in turn come down on your company and directly cost you future business.

  • What do I think? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RJFerret (1279530) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @11:39AM (#47141253) Homepage

    I think extortion is extortion.

    As a landlord, there are other considerations too, depending if your tenants have the option to not pay for your "lack-of-service", or reduce the rent by the amount alternatives cost them, how it is described to them, and the laws of the individual state, it might even negate their legal requirement to pay full rent.

    Landlords aren't often permitted to prevent tenants from obtaining services. Courts don't tend to favor entities trying to obstruct students' abilities to obtain learning resources.

  • by drew30319 (828970) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @11:52AM (#47141323) Homepage Journal
    This is fantastic!

    (1) implement the Board of Director's idea as-is;

    (2) encourage the Board (and anybody else who supports the idea) that they need to really market the hell out of it;

    (3) at the same time create a series of spurious emails to the project backers telling them what a terrible idea the project is;

    (4) stay home and watch the news the day that the system goes live;

    (5) watch as the villagers storm the company castle and the board of directors (and associated greedy imbeciles) are summarily tossed out on their pointy heads;

    (6) return to a company which is now free of these fools;

    (7) profit!

    • (6) return to a company which is now free of these fools;

      Replaced by a new batch of equivalent fools.

              This is why nerds almost always end up living in mom's basement.

  • by gavron (1300111) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @12:09PM (#47141379)

    It's a clever idea (like Comcast wanting Netflix to pay them for what Comcast's own customers pay them already).

    Right now you have 15,000 paying customers. They are almost "captive" in the sense that they get Internet service without having to put any effort into it, so they will continue to be customers so long as you treat them fairly.

    Your customers pay you to give them access to the whole Internet. If you remove parts of the net until someone else double-pays you for that same service, you'll find yourself on the wrong side of a Judge certifying a class-action suit against you for lots of fun things like breach of contract, tortious interference, and possibly material misrepresentation (not fraud - fraud isn't covered by E&I insurance).

    Your safe bet if you wanted to do something this stupid is to give your 15,000 customers FREE Internet with the caveat that some sites may not be reachable unless the other side pays for it. This would be legal, but it won't be financially profitable.

    So you can either retain a sustainable model where you're not getting sued, not extorting third parties, and making money, OR you can extort third parties and likely get sued OR you can move to a financially non-sustainable model.

    As an IT director I guess your job is to figure out how to implement what the Directors wants. As anyone with half a brain I would recommend they make the selection from the choices above before spending a minute researching firewalls and private-dickhead-networks.

    E

  • If you do that to law students, you'll end up with a bunch of people fascinated by the law, advised by a world class lawyer (one of their professors) suing for the experience.

    If you do it to technical students, they'll set up a proxy in one of the computer labs.

    If you do it to party students, they'll seal a nice cake into one of the walls as revenge when they leave, then they'll borrow the techies proxy.

    The booksellers won't even talk to you. They know the students will get around it.

  • You could waste many hours calculating how much it would cost (equipment, maintenance, support calls, unsatisfied customers, risk of legal actions, etc.). After spending a lot of time on this, you could most probably demonstrate it's a bad business idea.

    But why bother? I'm sure you have more interesting things to do than writing a memo to explain in detail why a stupid idea is stupid.

    It is also pretty obviously a bad idea from an "ethical" point of view. You don't have to spend hours doing boring research t

  • If you actually block legit sites unless those sites pay you for access.

    1 they will go off campus for access when they need it
    2 if any of those schools are or have a brother/sister college that "does law" they will spin up a Class Action Lawsuit in DAYS

    In short if you like what a chicken looks like after being sucked into the engines of a C-5 then go ahead and BE THE CHICKEN!!

    Safer would be to make sure than "friendly sites" are always fast.

  • ... you have 15,000 students, and you're hoping to give them access to just some of the internet, in the hopes that they'll buy textbooks from whatever shitty overpriced group you've cut a deal with instead of Amazon?

    Students have:

    1) time
    2) idealism
    3) skills

    and the combination of those three, if you piss them off, will rip you a new one. The techies will set up proxies to get around your bullshit (and they will succeed), the law students will sue you, and the business majors will set up a "white market" (no

    • Social media will quickly be your company's undoing as no one will want to live in place where they are forced to pay for a crippled internet as a condition of living in one of your properties. There will quickly be expensive lawsuits essentially forcing your company to decouple your internet service from the rent and making it optional. I would simply waggle my middle finger at your company and find a different place to live.
  • Sure, you could do something like this technically with little trouble. The issues here, over and above moral, are legal and business.

    Is this illegal? Maybe, but I really hope you at least have to inform the residents and it could not take effect until after current leases run out.

    And what sort of long term profit change should you expect by degradating your service to existing customers and offering less for future customers?

    Also, is 35K enough clout to even have anyone with any money to listen to you (and

  • Here is my take and I'm not a lawyer.

    1) I think you are grossly underestimating the complexity of doing this. Most commercial sites are very complex to analyze in terms of traffic sources. For example my stupid commercial website which runs about 100 visitors a month now has chunks of akamai (millions of potential IP addresses) because I bought a service that throws that in. That's in addition to people setting up all sorts of proxies. What you are talking about is a secure network. A secure network h

  • If I were a student living in one of the rental units, I would want to a) disconnect from restricted access network, b) have the cost credited to me in the form of lower rent, and c) get my own unfiltered Internet access. I think I would even be willing to go to court over it, and maybe even make it a class-action lawsuit.

    I would feel the same way if the rental units provided cable TV service, but chose to limit access to certain freely available channels (i.e., local terrestrial broadcast stations), or o

  • Just as many companies have done when interfered with by the government... you should terminate services that the government presumes to control that they have no right to control.

    It is your bundling of services that apparently allows them to do this... were the students contracting with ATT or Verizon or whatever for their ISP service they would be treated as normal users and not subjected to additional restrictions on their network access. It is only because you provide these services that this has been a

  • Seriously. Instead of dicking with marketing firms and network-based rebuttal, how about jacking the rent up another $30 for each resident? $30 * 35K is over $1M dollars of guaranteed, no-bullshit, no-middleman profit. EVERY MONTH.

    Whoohoo!

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