It was a landmark day yesterday for the FCC and advocates of a free and open internet. Two major rulings were delivered. One defending Tennessee and North Carolina efforts to build tax payer funded broadband, and the second reclassifying the entire Internet as a utility under Title II regulations. If you have questions about the announcements, Enobong Etteh from Booredatwork and I are here to answer them!
There are laws on the books in twenty states preventing communities from building out their own public high speed and fiber broadband, but communities in Kansas and Colorado are looking to move forward on their own local offerings.
Seven cities and counties in Colorado voted during the last election to exercise an escape clause in their anti-competition legislation. All that was required was allowing a community to take a vote on the matter, and every community that put it up for a vote had it pass by a large margin. Boulder Colorado passed their measure with 84% of the voter turnout supporting it.
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.
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.
The Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association sued Tesla citing the state’s franchise law, but the court ruled that Tesla was not violating the spirit of that law. The franchise law was written to protect franchise owners from direct and unfair competition against a parent company, a relationship which does not exist for Tesla. Justice Margot Botsford wrote:
The law “was intended and understood only to prohibit manufacturer-owned dealerships when, unlike Tesla, the manufacturer already had an affiliated dealer or dealers in Massachusetts”.
“Contrary to the plaintiffs’ assertion,” she added, “the type of competitive injury they describe between unaffiliated entities is not within the statute’s area of concern.”
Tesla is current fighting similar statutes in several other states including Texas, Arizona, Maryland, and recently an ugly public fight in New Jersey. If the state laws there are similar to MA’s, then this case might set the stage for Tesla’s future legal strategy.
Tomorrow, a number of sites around the internet will be intentionally slowing their traffic to demonstrate what a tiered internet might feel like for consumers. The Fast Lane rules have come under a lot of scrutiny, as many fear they will slow innovation online by creating more expensive barriers for companies wanting to create the next generation of data services.
The list of sites includes the ACLU, Imgur, Daily Kos, Etsy, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Vimeo, and adult sites YouPorn, RedTube, and Pornhub will be joining in as well.
For more info on the slowdown head over to https://www.battleforthenet.com/sept10th/
After months of debate in the CA senate, Governor Brown signed off on the smartphone kill switch law yesterday, following Minnesota as the second state to combat the growing rates of smartphone theft. The general idea being, if the phone is completely disabled or “bricked”, it wont be valuable to thieves, so it’s less likely to be stolen.
With very few exceptions (mainly for older handsets) any company wishing to sell a smartphone in the state must have some option for completely disabling it in the event it’s lost or stolen. There’s a $2500 fine per device for any company which fails to offer this feature. The law will affect any phone sold after July 1, 2015.
While carriers make up the bulk of phone sales, manufacturers will likely be responsible for developing the actual process that locks the phone down. Google for example sells their Nexus phone directly to consumers, so whatever process they develop will likely be embraced by other Android manufacturers.
Apple already has a fairly robust “Lost Mode” built into iOS, requiring someone to enter their Apple ID password before the phone can be used. This pass code continues to lock the phone down even if someone else factory resets the phone.
Microsoft has built in tools to find, lock, and erase, and we’ve reviewed Google’s Device Manager which offers up similar features, but neither of those company’s solutions will survive a hard reset.
California’s kill switch law will not affect tablets, another commonly stolen item, but if manufacturers improve the ability to remotely manage and lock phones down, these features will likely make their way into other data connected mobile products.
It’s been an ongoing debate, now focused on State vs Federal rights. Should the FCC have the right to circumvent state law, to help smaller communities provide broadband data to their residents.
Chattanooga TN has become a poster child for how to rollout gigabit fiber paid with public funds, beating Google Fiber to gigabit speeds in 2010, but state law prevents the project from expanding into other communities. Four years after Chattanooga reached gigabit, most large cable broadband markets still struggle to reach one tenth the network speed of “Gig City”, and most consumers pay significantly more for slower broadband.
The city could also become the first piece of a new smart energy grid for the country.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Harold DePriest, CEO of EPB (Chattanooga’s electric company which manages the broadband project) took to Reddit to answer questions about how the project has impacted their residents. It’s an interesting discussion, delving into the politics of dealing with the FCC and State governments, but if your data is slow in your area, seeing speedtests like the one linked from the AMA might break your heart a little bit.
You can see a video detailing Chatanooga’s efforts to build a smarter energy grid below.