Tag Archives | Net Neutrality

Court Throws Out Verizon, MetroPCS Suits Over Net Neutrality

A federal judge has thrown out both Verizon and MetroPCS’ suits against the FCC over net neutrality, but don’t get your hopes up just yet. The decisions appear to revolve around a technicality: that both companies just filed way too early.

In order for the FCC to be sued over the rules, it must be in the 30 days following its publishing in the Federal Register. That has not happened yet. While the carriers attempted to deal with this issue by saying it was a move to protect its spectrum rights, the court just did not buy that.

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MetroPCS Sues the FCC Over Net Neutrality

Doesn’t it seem like those working against net neutrality are the companies who’d lose the most from it? MetroPCS has joined Verizon in fighting back the FCC over the issue, filing its own suit Tuesday in the DC Court of Appeals, the same place Verizon sued the agency in last week. Like its much bigger competitor, MetroPCS is questioning if the FCC has the authority to regulate ISPs’ network management.

The carrier recently launched its 4G services using LTE. It was criticized by many following the launch, as MetroPCS decided to selectively block some applications. Such activities would be in direct violation of the FCC’s planned regulation when it comes to net neutrality, and would require the company to change the way it does business.

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FCC Votes for Net Neutrality, McCain Wants to Stop Them

john_mccainWell net neutrality fans, your enemies list just got one person bigger. John McCain is the latest to come out against the FCC’s work, and has even proposed legislation to stop the agency in its tracks.

On Thursday, the FCC approved a measure to begin the process of formalizing a set of net neutrality rules that would ban ISPs from selectively filtering or throttling content. Texas Rep. Barton tried to stop the FCC from voting on the measure in the first place by pleading with commissioners to stop the vote from occurring.

This was an exercise in futility: Chairman Julius Genachowski had already worked to seal the support of the two other Democratic commissioners, making approval all but certain before the vote occurred.

Enter McCain. The Arizona senator introduced the Internet Freedom Act, which would expressly prohibit the FCC from making rules on net neutrality in the simplest terms. Using the Republicans’ favorite phrase of late–”government takeover”–McCain said net neutrality would stifle competition and hurt the job market.

Much like Barton, McCain also took issue with the inclusion of wireless Internet in the FCC’s planned policy, saying the lack of regulation has helped the industry grow rapidly. It’s unclear if such a measure could pass: however at least 70 House Democrats have already written the FCC expressing concern over the proposal, Reuters reports.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out as net neutrality was one of Obama’s campaign priorities. You can bet there will be a lot of vote counting being done in the coming months: Republicans will have to get a super majority as I would almost expect the President to veto any legislation like this if it makes it to his desk.


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GOP Moves to Block Net Neutrality

Julius GenachowskiA Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal that would require Internet service providers to treat all network traffic equally was met with resistance by Republicans on Capitol Hill today.

FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski is expected to unveil a policy that advocates network neutrality this week. If the policy is implemented, providers would no longer be able to interfere with information that flows through their networks. ISPs, including Comcast, have managed peer-to-peer network traffic to alleviate network congestion, and oppose the concept.

Senate Republicans also stand in opposition to net neutrality, and moved to deny the FCC funding for developing or implementing new Internet regulations. Genachowski was appointed to the FCC by President Obama.

“I am deeply concerned by the direction the FCC appears to be heading. Even during a severe downturn, America has experienced robust investment and innovation in network performance and online content and applications,” Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said in a statement. ” She said that regulations could stifle innovation, and that the marketplace would respond to companies that exhibit questionable behavior.

Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet Protocol and Google evangalist, and Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, favor network neutrality. Berners-Lee believes that ISPs seek to shift customers to a tiered pricing model, where access to information pipelines will be tightly controlled.

I agree with Berners-Lee, and would rather see preemptive regulation than for Internet users to lose the benefits of the Internet. Toll booths would impede–not encourage–innovation. What do you think?


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Sen. Franken Questions Sotomayor on Net Neutrality

Al Franken-thumb-275x412.jpgNo doubt the hearts of net activists around the country went aflutter when Minnesota Senator Al Franken made his very first question to Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor about net neutrality. Franken asked for her opinion on the 2005 “Brand X” decision, which net activists argue allows companies with both ISP and content interests to give their traffic precedence over other Internet traffic.

Essentially, Brand X affirmed the FCC’s decision that the Internet was an information service, and thus free of any requirements that would require it to be “open.”

Franken seemed to try to prod Sotomayor for her position on net neutrality, and she for all intents and purposes demurred, placing the work back in Congress’ hands. Sotomayor did say that as a citizen she realized the value and importance of the Internet.

Gleaning somebody’s stance on an issue from two or three minutes of questioning on the subject is not easy, but I’m not so sure that Sotomayor may be inclined to side with net neutrality as she seems to think it is a legislative issue.

This may come down to how she’ll decide cases — and she seems to lean towards deciding from already settled law, of which Brand X is already there. That could mean net activists might not have Sotomayor to count on if any future net neutrality cases make it to the high court.

In any case, I do applaud Senator Franken for bringing the issue up front and center. Equal access regardless of the content provider or ISP is important, and is an issue that should concern Internet users regardless of our political beliefs.


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Does the Internet Feel Slow? Google’s M-Lab Wants to Help

googlelogoToday, Google is partnering with the New America Foundation (a non profit that is chaired by Google CEO Eric Schmidt) and a group of academics to develop an open platform for creating Internet connection measurement tools.

Google says the platform, called Measurement Lab (M-Lab), will help researchers create tools that help determine the root cause of sluggish Internet application performance. Over the course of the yea, Google will deploy 36 servers in 12 locations in the U.S. and Europe as a distributed backing infrastructure. A limited number of users will be supported initially.

Data aggregated by M-Lab will be freely available researchers, according to a blog post co-written by Vint Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist, and Stephen Stuart, the project’s principal engineer. Google wishes for M-Lab to be a community-based effort, and invites anyone that wants to donate servers, tools, and other resources to participated, they noted.

“At Google, we care deeply about sustaining the Internet as an open platform for consumer choice and innovation. No matter your views on net neutrality and ISP network management practices, everyone can agree that Internet users deserve to be well-informed about what they’re getting when they sign up for broadband, and good data is the bedrock of sound policy. Transparency has always been crucial to the success of the Internet, and, by advancing network research in this area, M-Lab aims to help sustain a healthy, innovative Internet,” they wrote.

With companies such as Comcast (which prompted an FCC investigation) and Cox Communications prioritizing network traffic, this is good news for consumers and consumer advocacy groups. M-Labs could be a valuable research to help detect bandwidth throttling and let people confirm that they are truly getting what they are paying for.


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Comcast Back On FCC’s Naughty List

comcast_c2Okay, I could have titled this a little less PC, but hey this is a family site. Anyway, the FCC is looking into the cable provider’s practices surrounding its VoIP service. And surprise, surprise: it has to do with net neutrality once again.

The charge is that Comcast is giving preferential treatment to its own phone service at the expense of its competitors. The FCC is pointing to Comcast’s own documentation on the service, which state VoIP calls are placed over a seperate network away from the Internet and thus less prone to congestion problems.

What this means is that network management policies put into effect by the cable provider could essentially degrade service from competitors such as Vonage, while leaving its own VoIP service unaffected. This could leave VoIP calls sounding “choppy,” Comcast has admitted

If this is true rather than some marketing gobbledygook, Comcast’s phone service would then fall under a different set of telecommunications policies that are reserved for regular landline service. Essentially, it would be considered a phone company like any other and thus would also be subject to regulation and fees of the landline providers.

Free Press, which has been a frequent critic of Comcast’s network management policy, said it was pleased by the FCC’s action.

“This letter is a positive sign that the FCC’s Comcast decision was not a one-and-done action on Net Neutrality … an open Internet cannot tolerate arbitrary interference from Internet service providers. Congress and the FCC must close any legal loopholes that permit anti-competitive behavior to thrive.”

Comcast had no immediate comment on the matter, however it has until January 30 to respond to the FCC’s allegations.


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Should the U.S. Roll Out Free Nationwide Wi-Fi? It Depends on Which Administration You Ask.

The lame duck Bush administration is flapping its wings in opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) free, national wireless Internet plan. Meanwhile, U.S. President- elect Obama is assembling a team to execute a plan to broaden the availability of high speed Internet access in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the White House stands in opposition to the FCC’s proposal to auction off the U.S. airwaves (formerly used for terrestrial television) for a nationwide wireless broadband service. Under the plan, the winner of the auction would be required to roll out a nationwide service on a dedicated portion of those airwaves within a specified number of years. Outgoing FCC chairman Kevin Martin, appointed by President Bush, is an advocate of the plan.

But the Journal says that the administration is at odds with its FCC appointee: It believes that the winner of the spectrum auction should not be beholden to a price or product mandate. Given the failure of other municipal Wi-Fi projects, I would hope that the FCC has does its homework and has come up with a model that works. But I hope the plan doesn’t die because it falls short of perfection.

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