Inside the dispute over so-called ‘net neutrality’ and why it’s important to Apple users

“At the heart of the current net neutrality debate is Netflix, which earlier this year began paying cable provider Comcast to prioritize its service, allowing content to be delivered to users faster. The streaming service has since struck a similar deal with Verizon,” Stephen Robles writes for AppleInsider. “Those deals apply to the so-called ‘last mile’ of the Internet — the lines owned by a cable provider that connect to your home.”

“When you access Netflix on your Apple TV, the entertainment provider does not have a direct line to your modem or Wi-Fi router. That direct line into your home is instead owned by whatever cable company spent millions of dollars physically laying cabling or fiber to offer your neighborhood Internet service,” Robles writes. “That movie or TV show you begin streaming on your Apple TV must travel down two roads to get to your house: from Netflix to the cloud (Internet) and from the cloud to your device.”

“Until recently, these “roads” from content providers to the cloud and back down to the user have been treated like open pipes, completely unregulated. For years cable companies had no issue leaving these pipes wide open, as most of the content being delivered were static websites, images, Flash, and the occasional low-resolution video,” Robles writes. “The concern is that if cable providers keep cutting those types of deals, renting a movie from iTunes could be a different experience on Comcast than it is for Time Warner customers. If Apple paid Comcast for prioritization on its network, their customers could rent a movie and begin watching quickly, while Time Warner customers could still be waiting for it to buffer.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Mark Cuban on so-called net neutrality: ‘The government will fsck the Internet up’ – November 13, 2014
Obama-appointed FCC chairman distances himself from Obama on so-called ‘net neutrality’ – November 12, 2014
What does so-called ‘net neutrality’ mean for Apple? – November 12, 2014
AT&T to pause fiber investment until net neutrality rules are decided – November 12, 2014
U.S. FCC plays Russian Roulette with so-called ‘net neutrality’ – November 11, 2014
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner: Republicans will continue efforts to stop misguided scheme to regulate the Internet – November 10, 2014
Tech Freedom: Obama cynically exploits confusion over Title II, misses opportunity to lead on legislative deal – November 10, 2014
Obama want FCC to regulate the Internet; Cruz calls it ‘Obamacare for the Internet’ – November 10, 2014

77 Comments

        1. You could say that about any word in the English language. Meaningless tripe.

          Net Neutrality is a well defined concept. Yes, it flies in the face of the childish precepts in Ayn Rand’s ideal frictionless world where businesses all compete in an idealistic free market unfettered by monopolies. But Net Neutrality is intended to regulate monopoly economies, which by definition are not subject to supply-side market forces.

          “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” This applies equally to free markets and free society.

    1. The article by Appleinsider is miss leading. Let’s walk through the real world scenario. Let’s say ISP company XYZ spends tons of money putting fiber to average Joe’s homes. And Joe pays XYZ a monthly fee for a 100Mbps pipe to the company XYZ’s network. And video streaming entrepreneur Netflix also pays XYZ a larger monthly fee for a 10Gbps (100x 100Mbps) pipe to the company XYZ’s network. Now Joe can stream video in his home from Netflix. However, if too many Joes streaming, Netflix’s 10G pipe may not be larger enough for the streaming. So Netflix naturally pays XYZ more to have larger pipe, ex. 100G pipe. Questions here?
      Ok, now let’s say Netflix find out another ISP company LNM sells 100G pipe cheaper than XYZ. Naturally, Netflix switches to be LNM’s customer. Now, the beauty of Internet is that every ISPs are interconnect one way or another, LNM has pipe to XYZ. The cost of pipe is shared by LNM and XYZ, each pays its own half pipe and meet at a neutral point. No money exchange hands between LNM and XYZ . So Joe still is able to stream video from Netflix. However, the interconnection pipe between XYZ and LNM may be 10G, smaller than 100G, so Joe’s video streaming from Netflix suffers in quality. Now LNM wants to upgrade pipe to XYZ to 100G since LNM has Netflix as a good paying customer. But XYZ don’t want upgrade because it has to pay its half but can’t charge Joe more.
      Now we have the good, the bad, and the ugly. Who is who is depending on the eye of beholders. Netflix doesn’t want to pay more to directly connect to XYZ since LNM charges Netflix less, XYZ doesn’t want to pay more without either Netflix pay him or Joe pay more, Joe doesn’t want to pay more neither.
      Now Obama says XYZ is the ugly. Do you agree? And why?

      1. TLDR; feels like a very detailed explanation of a valid but edge case.

        If Comcast CAN handle the bandwidth, they should. If they can’t, then they can spend money until they can or just say fuggit. It’s not like the majority of Concast customers are able to choose anyone else anyway. They’re not going to lose customers. 🙂

      2. the only reason those connections exist is that network companies have agreed to connect to each other under the pretense the data exchange is somewhat equal, ONLY BECAUSE IT IS CHEAPER THAN BUILDING OUT REDUNDANT NETWORKS.

        poor L3 and Congent have cut off peering partners in the past who had dared to send more data than the link was agreed to and now they are playing the victim and network neutrality nonsense when they want to send more data

        netflix connecting to ISP’s is common sense because of all the data they send. there is no reason to put it all on the backbone

          1. it’s crazy how every video service works just fine except for netflix. every video service that competes with ISP’s gets full support from ISP’s and access to their data centers but netflix somehow has problems. and they only started after netflix cancelled their CDN contract

      3. Excuse me, but the US taxpayer paid billions in tax credits and subsidies to encourage the carriers to build their infrastructure. It was a huge ripoff. MDN is becoming more like Fox News each day with their aggregator’s activism. Fair and balanced?

        1. Another false information. Since when, at what form, and the source of data? Factories get the tax break, sport venues get the tax break, haven’t heard about fiber pipes get the tax break. Also remember it is the tax break, not subsidy.

      1. Bias? You mean explanation.

        We don’t need incompetent government oversight of the Internet.

        Obamacare is a joke in the equality realm and an Internet sign up MESS. Imagine how much more of a mess will be created if we have Obamacare for the Internet.

        Keep government fixing potholes and chasing terrorists.

        Freedom!

            1. Got any facts to back that up? Any actual parallels in the details Obama proposed and the ACA? Or are you just regurgitating the sound byte that Canadian fearmonger spoon-fed the nation because it’s easier to digest than the actual facts od the situation?

              There are reasonable oppositions to Net Neutrality. Calling it “Obamacare for the Internet” is not one of them, and only a demagogue like Ted Cruz would say it and only a blind fool would believe it.

            2. 1) Nobody is bulldozing through the legislative process with some gargantuan piece of cumbersome and confusing legislation.
              2) Obama’s suggestions are in line with what was standard practice prior to the court decision a few years ago.
              3) Obama’s suggestions are simple and do not add any sort of tax or fee.
              4) Nobody is being forced to enter a marketplace.
              5) Obamacare and its functioning are the opposite of transparent, a feature at the core of Obama’s recommendation.
              6) This is just a recommendation to the FCC, an independent commission, with no authority to be put in place.

              And that’s just the obvious stuff. Because unlike Rafael Edward Cruz’s braindead drones, I’m able to think for myself when analyzing the situation.

              Again, there are valid arguments against Net Neutrality. This idiotic Obamacare comparison is nothing more than fearmongering to get simpletons riled up and obfuscate a discussion vital to the future of the internet.

            3. Doc, those with whom you are debating will not accept anything that goes against their rigid belief set. Their modus operandi is to label and disparage anything and everything eith which they disagree.

              Obama may not be s great President. But a significant amount of the public dissatisfaction with the Obama administration has been purposefully engineered by the GOP. On several occasions, Obama has proposed something previously championed by the GOP. But it immediately faced opposition from the former GOP supporters because it came from Obama. Both political parties are destroying this country in a petty power struggle financed by the wealthy elite and corporations. It is disgusting.

            4. I don’t think you are an idiot, but you are begging to be called one for some reason. Why parrot blatant propaganda. That one is not even witty.

  1. Whenever Washington tells us they are going to fix our problems, or make things fair in our lives (i.e. Net Neutrality). Hang on, we are about to get anything but fair!

    Net Neutrality is nothing more than the government wanting to regulate our lives on the internet. Welcome to censorship and manipulation!

    Do we remember not long ago government was going to fix our health care system? They were going to give us lower cost health care options, insurance for the poor, and of course we can keep our health care insurance and doctor if we like (ha).

    No matter how bad you may think it is now, its going to get many times worse if we have Net Neutrality!

    1. Do you really think that classifying the Internet as a “utility,” so it is shared equally, is somehow inferior to letting Time-Warner and Comcast control it? Frankly, I’m a lot more concerned about Comcast and its motives, as opposed to the President and his motives on this.

      Basically, Obama wants to leave the system as the creators of the Internet INTENDED. The cable companies want the (anything but) free market to take total control.

      To me, I’ll back Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf over Brian L. Roberts and Ted Cruz any day.

      1. I would bet that once one of the political parties pays Comcast to deliver their content faster than the other party, net-neutrality or whatever you wanna call it is going to be front and center!! 🙂

      2. Comcast/Time-Warner should not control the internet. The power they currently have is from the hands of corruption in Washington. But hand this power over to our government is even worse.

        You don’t know Obama’s intentions! We all know that Obama is a deceitful man (remember…you can keep your insurance and doctor). He talks a good game, but will never tell you his true intentions.

        You know very little about liberal progressive (both Democrates and Republicans). Rule number one, the ends justify the means. They hide behind the desire to do good things and end up taking your rights away and raise taxes. WAKE-UP people!

      1. The hell with the doublespeak accusation. The extreme left are all PHDs in this practice.

        What the average person, no apologies to elitists like John Gruber, want is common sense and what it BEST for them.

        Tell us how opposing so called Net Neutrality is a bad thing because I am certainly open to a better way.

        It is just that the extreme left implementation of anything is always a concern. Rarely works out as intended.

        Freedom!

        1. The hell with the doublespeak accusation. The extreme left are all PHDs in this practice.

          Sorry, but it’s entirely obvious that BOTH parties pull this rubbish on all of us. If you think the Republicans don’t propagandize total rubbish into our heads, you’re (to be polite) missing a big chunk of modern US political rhetoric.

          As for changing your mind regarding all the propaganda you’ve been taught to be ‘true’, I see no point. The only thing I’m really good for is an outside-the-box perspective so you can’t ever say someone didn’t point out something a bit closer to reality than the crap you believe. You did hear a different and hopefully wiser perspective. At least that’s my goal.

          I have no use for the 1 dimensional political spectrum. Why anyone lives on that (to be polite) simplistic reduction of the real world into a single line, as opposed to 3D conceptualization, is beyond my comprehension. I don’t care if you consider that elitist. I consider it merely human, seeing as we’re humans living in an obviously 3D world.

          IOW: Thanks for your perspective, but I’m not going to live there. I reject all propaganda I am capable of recognizing. To manipulate yourselves kids, not me, thank you. I thank my perception of god that I’m capable of thinking for myself and enjoy the results.

          1. I asked you for reasons and solid arguments as to why Net Neutrality is a good thing.

            You did not come out to play today and danced around a question seeking truth of conviction.

            So, you have no conviction only extreme left sound bites and empty platitudes, etc .

            I am not surprised.

            1. Hi Me2Sense, I will give it a shot.

              Originally, as designed by the US government, the Internet was packet agnostic and would reroute around both intentional and unintentional barriers.

              This ended up not just being wonderful for national security, but for the whole world, individuals and corporations. It also makes consumer sense, if you pay for internet service, you don’t want the provider adjusting the priority of your packets depending on what you request. You have paid for your packets, you should get what you request.

              (Saying that Netflix is “using” up lots of bandwidth is crazy misleading. Netflix doesn’t “use” bandwidth it just services the requests of the telecoms customers. If they were not requesting Netflix, then there would not be lots of Netflix streaming.)

              So net neutrality simply comes down to keeping the internet open by saying companies who charge to relay packets (ISPs) can’t reprioritize packets based on their source or type.

              This is a feature of the Internet we already had, and don’t want to see go away due to ISPs acting as predatory gatekeepers. (If they were not near monopoly gatekeepers then they would not be a threat.)

              Maybe the phrase “packet agnostic” would have been better than “net neutrality”.

              I don’t know about you, but when I pay for my Internet service I am expecting to be the person who decides what packets I want. It makes no sense to pay for service and have someone else redefine what that service means any way they want.

            2. You never asked me for reasons or solid arguments blahblahblah. I’ve said my peace with regards to you. So isn’t that too bad. 😛

              Meanwhile, I’ll continue discussing the subject with people I respect, meaning NOT you.

    2. Very well said.

      You just nuked the Orwellian “Net Neutrality” CON JOB WORDING for what it is.

      And that is ladies and gentlemen, the extreme left pretending to do the righteous thing for the greater good. Pretense is their Modus Operandi until they gain a foothold.

      What they want, as always, is CONTROL and then the PC incompetent employees storm in and take over and screw it up. Hell, government can’t even fix the potholes in my town.

      Freedom!

      1. You seem to have a clear sense of why the “left” can’t be trusted, but you think the “right” can? Independents despair at this silliness.

        But despite corruption, problems are often solved by government. Even criminals and dictators maintain their power by solving real problems.

        One of the big solutions government provided over the last few decades was the creation of an Internet that was packet agnostic, a wonderful bit of technology and practical freedom. You can connect to whoever you want without anyone’s permission or interference.

        A law or regulation that prevents telecoms from imposing their own agenda onto the service requests of individual and corporate customers will maintain freedoms of speech and commerce that the Internet has already provided.

        Don’t trust “right” or “left” or “telecoms” with your freedom.

        A law would be better, since it avoids executive branch manipulation of regulations, but since neither party is getting a law through, a regulation is better than no regulation. Its not like Obama is going to be president for much longer anyway.

          1. And yet the right screws up when it is in power too, which why power keeps getting passed back and forth. Neither party can stop themselves from making a mess when they have a chance.

        1. no, CDN’s have been paying ISP’s for hosting and bandwidth for almost 20 years now. netflix is paying the ISP’s less than they paid level 3 and cogent for the same services. Hulu and lots of other video services including itunes have used these CDN’s for many years now. netflix screwed themselves when they let their CDN contract expire

        2. Internet classed as a Utility.

          and then TAX THE SHIT OUT OF THE USE for one.
          Do you know that in many states you are still taxed for Cell usage to “upgrade” land lines etc.

          http://www.mywireless.org/state-issues/state-tax-rankings/
          http://taxfoundation.org/article/wireless-taxation-united-states-2014

          If NN goes through, taxing our “usage” or for anything really, is easy to do.

          Just one example of course. Many reasons to tell Gov to stay away from running the internet.

          1. You make good points. I would rather pay a stupid tax and know my telecom isn’t messing with my packets than avoid a little tax and have telecoms redefining the priority of my connections based on their own agendas.

            But it would be much better, for the reasons you point out, to have a simple law that simply Internet service providers to be “packet neutral” instead of using executive branch regulators. That would avoid all the regulator and political shenanigans.

            But neither party seems to have enough sense to do something so simple.

  2. The center of the confusion about net neutrality occurs because “net neutrality” is not about you and me, the end user. It is about the relationship between the data intense content providers and the heavily invested infrastructure developers.

    Why would I (an internet provider) spend massive amounts of capital, fleshing out infrastructure, when content providers (like netflix), can clog the network with massive amounts of bandwidth and not have to pay extra for their heavy use… thus requiring the infrastructure developers to spend ever more money improving the bandwidth to accommodate. Someone has to pay for the infrastructure development.

    Its a lot like heavy trucks on the road breaking up the asphalt. Who pays for the repair? The guy in the prius?

    This is exactly why ATT decided to delay their fiber development, until the dust settles and the issue becomes clear.

    I used to think that the Title II utility definition was appropriate for the internet, but that is a 70 year old regulatory instrument that does not fit the present situation.

    Some regulation is necessary, so that the quest for profit does not override the quality of service (and we end users are not screwed). But that regulation must be light enough to encourage both infrastructure development and content development.

    Both Service providers & Content providers need to know that they are going to be able to profit from their investments. Otherwise they will just close up shop.

    1. The way electric utilities are currently regulated is exactly the appropriate way to regulate internet providers. Until there is real competition in the cable industry we need that style of regulation.

      1. because utilities jump to upgrade every time demand rises. california and NYC had years of blackouts due to electricity shortages last decade before they committed to building new capacity.

        same when we had the baby bells all those years ago. they only had capacity for maybe 20% of their customers at one time. big holidays and other events you would always get a all circuits are busy message and to try your call later

        1. Check your facts: the only blackouts in California in recent history had little to do with capacity and everything to do with market manipulation.

          Remember Enron? When there were blackouts in January?

          True, there are days during heat waves when air conditioning pushes electricity usage to peak level, but utility companies have generally done a decent job of meeting demand.

        2. And from first hand experience I can tell you that companies like Duke Energy that owned the bulk of the generation facilities in the SF Bay Area purposely scheduled maintenance on those plants during peak demand times. They also faked outages at their plants (as did Enron) in order to raise the spot price for wholesale electricity, which they then supplied by starting up peaking plants when the pricing reached ten times the normal price. It wasn’t regulation, but DE-regulation that caused these abuses.

          Draconian environmental regulations at the same time caused generating units at several power plants in the area, like Contra Costa Power Plant to be retired. Hunters Point Power Plant and at least 3 others were closed and dismantled, even in the face of shortages, because they could not meet environmental requirements.

        3. And yes, PG&E did jump to meet all demand increases and even stay ahead of the demand curve. It was the CPUC who prevented them from building new plants to meet the demand.

      2. And you FAIL to understand that the second there is “real competition” in the cable industry… the FCC would *willingly* stop the regulation, right?

        Nah, they would find even more reason to continue to regulate and tax, find new ways to add to the problem.

        Once Government gets its hands on something, it does NOT let go. Not without a fight.

    2. “Why would I (an internet provider) spend massive amounts of capital, fleshing out infrastructure” Because they are making massive amounts of money charging the end user for that connection. As much as Net Neutrality is an issue, the issue of exclusivity and end user lock in is just as big. ATT can hold off upgrading their network because in many areas ATT has exclusivity contracts with the local municipalities. Meaning there is no competition and the consumer has no choice, if they did ATT would have to upgrade to meet bandwidth demands of risk loosing customers. ATT internet service was up 27.9 percent year over year, and produces a $13 billion dollar a year revenue stream for the company.

      1. Wrong. AT&T does not have exclusive contract with any local muni. Otherwise how can Google lay the fiber in the AT&T serving area? Instead, AT&T has obligation to local muni to serve every single consumer in that muni. The pubic right of way AT&T use everyone else can request the permit to trench and lay the fiber by their own cost. AT&T and other fiber company also negotiate private right of way of other land owner.

    1. You are right, people throw out phrases like “so-called” because they don’t have an intelligent argument for casting doubt.

      I like the phrase “packet neutral”, better than “network neutrality” since it is more technical, specific and clearer.

      It should be obvious that nobody (individual or corporate) who pays for their internet service wants their requested packets being reprioritized based anyone’s agenda than their own.

      1. I like ‘packet neutral’ too! Getting average folks (those plebeians so utterly below We The Geeks) to understand what a ‘packet’ means is a problem, however.

        No one who bothers to THINK about the matter wants any company running their lives. Equally, no one who bothers to THINK wants the government running their lives.

        What’s lots of darling fun these days is that the companies and the government are THE SAME DAMNED THING. I have two boots, a right and a left. I have one for EACH of them.

  3. So-called net neutrality is a fair assessment.

    Why should I wait 5 minutes for MDN’s webpage to load because my neighbor is streaming porn in 3D?

    Bandwidth hogs like Netflix shouldn’t be allowed to saturate a carrier’s network infrastructure.

    1. Netflix isn’t a bandwidth hog. It isn’t forcing your neighbor to watch 3D 4K porn. HE is the hog. The solution to hoggishness is not to charge the provider. It is to to charge the hogs for their usage by creating appropriate rate structures to either (1) get the hogs to lay off or (2) generate enough revenue to upgrade the system to handle the extra load. That can be done in a completely neutral manner, by charging the same amount for a given amount of data, no matter its source.

      The alternative, to charge more for some bits than for others, is by definition not neutral. Since many ISPs are also affiliated with content providers (e.g., Comcast and NBC Universal, Viacom and CBS, Time Warner Cable and Time Warner Entertainment), they face the temptation of charging their competition extra to give themselves an economic advantage.

      1. You missed my point.

        Let’s say a carrier spends $1B to build out a network to carry HD video to customers with appropriate bandwidth and latency.

        Then, Joe’s porn site spends $1M to hook up some servers to stream 3D 4K porno for $1 per minute. Joe makes an incredible return on his investment.

        Meanwhile, the carrier’s $1B infrastructure is saturated and the carrier’s customers are mad that their HDTV quality has turned to crap.

        Now, should the carrier spend another $1B to provide additional bandwidth to make it’s own customers happy, or spend a few dollars to throttle Joe’s 3D 4K porn to the bandwidth the network was built to carry?

        IMO, the carrier has every right to throttle Joe’s feed.

        1. What does it matter if the neighbor is requesting 4K porn from a money making business or 4K of nature shows from a free server run by volunteers? Its not the ISPs job to punish one customer and not the other, because in either case the customer has paid for their service.

          A telecom can adjust bandwidth to solve either situation WITHOUT doing so based on either the content type or location. In other words, while remaining neutral.

          Net neutrality doesn’t mean telecoms can’t adjust service to match demand and availability. It doesn’t mean they can’t charge excessive bandwidth users more.

          It just means they can’t filter the internet based on what content you want, or who you want to connect to.

  4. Oddly, this issue isn’t really about bandwidth or clogging. It is about content and the revenue it brings. Comcast provides “on demand movies”; they have no desire to let you stream from another vendor. Netflix figured out that they would have to pay extortion money to Comcast if they wanted to have any hope of success.

    As the number of providers shrink (Comcast buys Time-Warner, AT&T tried to buy T-Mobile, etc.), this develops into a few good old-fashioned monopolies.

    It is easier to stop monopolies before they are in place rather than bust them up later. Hence, the concern over “net neutrality”: we can do something before it happens, or consumers can get raped for twenty years or so before we find a politician to break the monopoly that will occur.

  5. I’m currently living in Germany for the year, and I’m paying $35 a month for high-speed business-class broadband, TV, and telephone. At my home in the US we are paying $50 a month for basic, throttled-down broadband with Comcast, that’s it, nothing else. The service quality is incomparably better here in Germany. It would actually be more expensive at home, but we were grandfathered into our service pricing.

    The difference is that, unlike the US, in Germany the government tightly regulates the market to encourage open competition. Americans think that government throttles competition because Americans have been duped by big business into believing such silliness. The US is no longer a democracy, it’s a plutocracy controlled by big business and the mass of Americans have been brainwashed into believing big business and mistrusting their own democratically elected government.

    And contrary to what the mass of Americans think, it’s been a healthy, vibrant government that has led to the thriving middle class in Germany, whereas in the US big business has convinced Americans that government is bad and uncontrolled capitalism is the American way. It’s pretty tragic, really.

    1. I think you are missing one very salient point. The reason why Americans distrust their elected government officials is because they know that those in government positions of power are swayed by big business to make decisions that are best for the big business and not for the citizens. Essentially big business plays both sides of the coin. Far too often elected officials make decisions that are best for corporate America and they also often make decisions that are made for their own best interests or pocketbooks. American citizens are not duped by corporate America they are duped by their elected officials and this has got to change. It won’t change by another shuffling of the deck like what happened last November 4th, it will take term limits and campaign funding limits…as a start. A Senator or Congressman’s time in Washington should be a pious endeavor and a temporary personal sacrifice to serve your state and country… Not a narcissistic, self-aggrandizing quest for money and power.

      1. Yes, a good answer, though I don’t entirely agree: why then do Americans keep voting for the same incumbents (McConnell, Boehner, McCain, etc etc) who have proven again and again they are totally beholden to corporate America? You would think people would put 2 and 2 together and realize that some Congressman just voted my job out of existence to China, right?

          1. And also because people really have little choice. In most cases you can either vote for the incumbent, the candidate of the other party, or waste your vote on someone who has no chance.

            When there are only two choices, people are voting for the least evil, not carefully selecting from a long menu of great choices.

    2. America is stuck with an either, or Government. Two choices, both sponsored by big business and beholding to big business.

      In China, to some degree in Russia and in many third world countries there is only one choice.

      One or two choices ends up with big business or big despots running the country.

      In countries with several choices, a government is made up of many different factions, being watched by the factions who didn’t join the government this time around.

      We the people, with many choices, have a hell of a lot more clout when it comes to government shenanigans.

      Americans should have more than two parties. They will never do it, but they should.

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