This has been a crazy trip.
From Verizon suing the Government over the Open Internet Order, to proposed “Fast Lane” rules, to now. The FCC has been busy today. First, announcing it will preempt state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina which were preventing community funded broadband efforts.
Second, approving rules which will reclassify broadband internet as a common carrier utility under Title II regulations. Thankfully, unlike the OIO, these new rules will also apply to mobile networks, not just wired ones. The vote was 3-2 in favor, on party lines with the Democrat majority winning the day.
“While I see no need for net neutrality rules, I am far more troubled by the dangerous course that the Commission is now charting on Title 2 and the consequences it will have for broadband investment, edge providers and consumers,”
-Republican FCC member Michael O’Rielly, who voted against the new rules.
We can also expect much crying and gnashing of teeth from the GOP in the House and Senate, with tired FUD and scare tactics, even though companies like Sprint have already pointed out that light touch regulation can be incredibly beneficial to a market as stagnant as our telecommunications industry. You would not have carriers like T-Mobile today, if the cell phone industry hadn’t been reclassified as Title II in the mid 1990’s. You can lead an elephant to water…
It’s a day many supporters of Net Neutrality thought we’d never see, and while there will still be a number of battles to fight over who regulates the internet, and what those actions should resemble, we can at least call today a victory for pretty much anyone who uses any kind of commerce or data driven service online.
The FCC has a five page write up, detailing the new rules.
FCC ADOPTS STRONG, SUSTAINABLE RULES TO PROTECT THE OPEN INTERNET
Last week the FCC redefined broadband internet, moving it from 4Mbps download / 1Mbps upload, to a far more modern 25Mbps down / 3Mbps up. With the stroke of a pen, now almost 20% of the population here in the United States no longer had access to “broadband” internet access?
Were you one of those folks? Has your service provider been able to keep pace with infrastructure and data needs? Drop us a comment below!
An interesting story has been developing in the use of WiFi hotpots in hotels.
The FCC fined Marriott hotels for blocking their customers from using their own WiFi, powered by phones and MiFi’s using 3G/4G data connections. The fine amounted to $600,000, and Marriott petitioned the commission, asserting that blocking customers was a way for them to better protect the security of the networking solutions they were offering.
The FCC responded with a public advisory yesterday reaffirming their previous stance:
Personal Wi-Fi networks, or “hot spots,” are an important way that consumers connect to the Internet. Willful or malicious interference with Wi-Fi hot spots is illegal. Wi-Fi blocking violates Section 333 of the Communications Act, as amended.1 The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises. As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference.
Continue reading “FCC Public Advisory: Blocking Personal WiFi Hotspots is Prohibited”
Maybe a surprising way to wrap a week full of Net Neutrality news, but the country’s fourth place carrier yesterday sent a letter to the FCC explaining its position on reclassifying the internet as a common utility under Title II.
They’re stance? It probably wont affect their products and services much.
Now to be sure, the letter does support a “light touch” regulation, where the FCC through forbearance might opt out of regulating certain aspects of the wireless industry, and give “mobile carriers the flexibility to manage our networks and to differentiate our services in the market”.
Of course, drawing that regulation line is a sticky subject between Title II supporters and opponents. Still it’s refreshing to see a carrier buck current industry trends to point out that it’s entirely likely reclassification might have only a small impact on the way broadband business is currently handled, and drawing on the history of the wireless industry, would probably be a positive move for the industry in allowing more competition.
When first launched, the mobile market was a licensed duopoly. This system was a failure, resulting in slow deployment, high prices and little innovation. In 1993, Congress revised the Telecommunications Act to allow new carriers, including Sprint, to enter the market. This competition resulted in tremendous investment in the wireless industry, broader deployment, greater innovation, and falling prices. It is absolutely true that this explosion of growth occurred under a light touch regulatory regime. Some net neutrality debaters appear to have forgotten, however, that this light touch regulatory regime emanated from Title II common carrier regulation, including Sections 201, 202 and 208 of the Communications Act.
Well done Lil’ Yellow. You can read the whole letter from Sprint’s Chief Technology Officer, Stephen Bye here (PDF Download).
The fight over net neutrality is going to get uglier. President Obama recently voiced support for classifying the Internet as a common utility and ending 19 states laws preventing broadband competition, and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler might join the President after voicing support for Title II at this year’s CES.
On the other side, Conservatives are pushing another bill in the House which would completely strip the FCC of regulating Internet activity by classifying it as an “Information Service”. You can thank Congressman Bob Latta out of Ohio for that, who received around $80,000 in donations from the telecoms during the 2013-14 election year cycle.
Google is backing Title II, as the reclassification would mean they would have more access to public utility lines and infrastructure as opposed to always digging their own trenches. There’s been growing support for more publicly funded broadband at the local level, while traditional ISP’s have been lobbying to maintain their non-competitive status quo.
Funnily enough we arrive at this point on the one year anniversary of an appellate court ruling in favor of Verizon in a lawsuit against the FCC and their Open Internet Order. The OIO would have enforced Net Neutrality rules on home internet and cabled broadband, but would have been pretty loose on wireless carriers.
Verizon alone sued the FCC over some fairly basic protections for keeping a level playing field, claiming it was their First Amendment right to degrade the quality of connection for competing services on their network. Other carriers have tried to circumvent Net Neutrality with “value add” benefits for consumers. People were up in arms about AT&T’s proposed Sponsored Data initiative, which would let third party companies pay to reduce the amount of data AT&T subscribers would be billed for, and T-Mobile found some success in cutting streaming music services off of customer’s bills.
Verizon’s actions a year ago in squashing the OIO means the worst possible option for carriers and ISP’s is the one gaining the most traction. It seems more likely now that in the wake of vocal opposition to the FCC’s “Fastlane” proposal, we might see an about face and a new proposal presented in favor of classifying the internet as a common utility.
The GAO released their report on Fixed Internet Usage and Usage-Based Pricing. The 41 page report details their testing and offers up their recommendations.
That the FCC should work with providers on educating consumers and developing a code of conduct for pricing and service. The FCC has already stated that they will be monitoring complaints to see if a more direct approach is necessary, but there hasn’t been much consumer uproar over capped home internet plans, especially as many groups are trying to influence the FCC’s “Fast Lane” proposal. With more of the focus on Net Neutrality and the upcoming Time Warner + Comcast merger, there’s probably far less noise being made about data caps.
This could become another battle soon however, as caps are another way ISP’s can enforce their policy and services to the detriment of their competitors, and it could have a chilling effect on consumer behavior. We’ve already covered Comcast’s horrifically bad “Flexible” plans, but it’s no surprise that more communities are following Chattanooga’s example and looking to build their own public data networks.
GAO Report: FCC Should Track the Application of Fixed Internet Usage-Based Pricing and Help Improve Consumer Education
On the campaign trail, then candidate Obama campaigned on keeping the Internet free and fair. As President, he’s been quiet on the recent plans laid out by the FCC to allow for paid fast lane access to web services.
In a two minute video uploaded to Youtube this morning, President Obama laid out his plan for what a free Internet should look like. He submitted his proposed plan to the FCC, encouraging them to prevent gatekeepers from arbitrarily degrading services like Netflix, and that rules should be drafted which protect service regardless of how someone connects to the internet. That last point would also mark a large shift in how data access is managed as cell networks operate under different rules than traditional wired networks.
While it’s encouraging to finally see the White House comment publicly on the continuing battles over Net Neutrality, the FCC’s response threw some cold water on those happy feelings.
“As an independent regulatory agency we will incorporate the President’s submission into the record of the Open Internet proceeding,” chairman Wheeler says. “We welcome comment on it and how it proposes to use Title II of the Communications Act.”
Essentially saying that the President’s recommendation would largely end up on the same pile of comments that the public has been submitting.
You can see President Obama’s statement below.
In a public open letter to Comcast and Time Warner, the FCC announced they will be hitting pause on their 180 day review of proposed merger between the two largest cable companies in the United States.
Only 85 days into the review process, both Comcast and TWC failed to meet deadlines on information requests in September. The FCC also responds to claims that the Comcast NBC Universal merger did not affect pricing, and that there was a substantial amount of data contradicting that claim needing examination. The FCC will resume their review process October 29th, allowing more time for the public to file comments and responses to the merger.
Public reaction to the merger has largely been negative, with many fearing the affects of what one super-large cable company will do to pricing and competition for services. It’s also become a cornerstone talking point in the ongoing net neutrality debate, as companies like Netflix have been forced to engage in negotiations and paying higher data transfer fees to prevent their services being throttled. It’s also given rise to a cottage industry of people recording poor customer service experiences with Comcast, and posting those recordings online.
You can read the FCC’s public letter here: Letter to Comcast, TW, and Charter regarding stopping clock