Posts Tagged ‘Net Neutrality’

I’ve spent a little more time reading about the newly passed FCC rules for internet neutrality and I’ll have more comments over the next week or two, but the first thing that jumped out at me was the FCC’s decision to exempt Wireless carriers from the provisions of the rule. It seems extremely strange to me that they would choose to focus only on the legacy fixed-line carriers for the new regulation.

According to the FCC statement after the vote:

“Mobile broadband presents special considerations that suggest differences in how and when open Internet protections should apply. Mobile broadband is an earlier-stage platform than fixed broadband, and it is rapidly evolving.”

While the facts in this statement are true, I question the ultimate conclusion that the infancy of mobile broadband suggests a lesser standard of regulation. Mobile broadband is currently the fastest growing segment of the internet.  A Fortune Magazine article suggests that a half a billion smart phones could be sold next year. That’s 500,000,0oo more people accessing the wireless web. For many people, especially those in the lower income brackets, wireless is the only method to access the internet. In the very near future, wireless broadband may end up the primary way we all access the internet. Why would Chairman Genachowski choose to focus on the tired legacy technology instead of getting ahead of the curve with wireless?

If mobile/wireless is going to take off as much as most experts predict we run the serious risk of developing competing internets with vastly different standards. While legacy fixed-line carriers will be subject to strict standards and will look to throttling, metered access and other solutions, the wireless providers will face little in the way of regulation and thus may grow up with a completely different model. This would require consumers to adapt to two different forms of the web and it would web development much more difficult. It would seem to me that such a duopolistic model will stifle innovation and hamper those who are trying to build tomorrow’s great web apps/services.

The wireless broadband experience already has enough obstacles for most users. Things like interoperability of handsets across networks (think iPhone on Verizon) or early termination fees or sharing networks. By failing to impose the tougher standards of net neutrality on the wireless providers, the FCC and Chairman Genachowski missed an opportunity to help remove some of these obstacles.

So, why did this all come about? I think another quote might put things into stark relief:

“[We] recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement.”

This comes from a joint Google/Verizon statement issued in August. Compare the wording of this statement with the wording of the FCC statement above. It would appear that Google and Verizon’s heavy lobbying has paid off tremendously with the FCC’s ruling. (If you’re wondering why Google has a vested interest in wireless, it’s due to the huge potential of mobile advertising they see. In the future they are hoping to generate a substantial part of their revenue from ads delivered to mobile devices. As a clear indicator of this potential one needs to look no further than Google’s acquisition of AdMob for $750Million in May).

Please note that I’m assuming a certain philosophical acceptance of net neutrality as a general principle  that is far from black and white – my point is just that if the FCC is going to impose net neutrality standards, why would they exempt the segment that might be most beneficial to consumers?

I’ll have more on the new FCC rules in the coming weeks.

Good Talk,

[Sources: http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2010/12/net_neutrality, http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/12/22/2011-will-be-the-year-android-explodes/, http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/weve-officially-acquired-admob.html]


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Yesterday (12/21) the FCC voted 3-2 to impose net neutrality standards on ISPs. I’ve talked a lot about net neutrality on this blog and I’m pretty happy to see the FCC taking some action (though I’d have much preferred that some body of elected officials taken action). I have not yet had a chance to fully digest the specifics of the ruling (it’s been a busy few days at work…). I’ll comment in full in the near future, but for now here is the announcement and some links to reactions/commentary/etc.

Official FCC Announcement:

Chairman Genachowski’s statement:

Steve Wozniak weighs in:

Likelihood of a Republican Congressing Overturning:

Kevin Fogerty of IT World:


MG from TechCrunch:

Alexia from TechCrunch:

That’s all for now. That’s plenty of reading (some of it I haven’t gotten all the way through yet) that should give you a pretty good idea of the reaction. I’ll provide my own analysis soon.

Good Talk,

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I’ve written quite a bit about net neutrality over the last couple of months. I’ve learned a lot about the issue while reading and writing about it. I’ve gotten a few things right, and a couple wrong, but hopefully I’ve at least highlighted the importance of the issue. This evening I was reading a few of the blogs I regularly read when I came across a post by Brad Burnham from Union Square Ventures that talks specifically about the changes the FCC will take up on December 21. The crux of Brad’s proposal is based on language suggested by Barbara van Schewick, a professor at the Stanford Law School:

A non-discrimination rule that bans all application-specific discrimination (i.e. discrimination based on applications or classes of applications), but allows application-agnostic discrimination.

The great thing about this approach is that it seems to answer the big objection of the ISPs to any net neutrality rule. ISPs can still regulate bandwidth to protect the health of their infrastructure. They can still throttle networks to handle demand, and they can still charge more for faster/better service. But they can not discriminate based on the application or type of application. In other words, an ISP could not slow only video traffic or any iTunes traffic. This should – and I emphasize “should” – prevent ISPs from stifling start ups and new innovation.

I encourage you to read Brad’s post in it’s entirety here. You can also see a video of Barbara van Schewick talking about net neutrality here. (warning: it’s almost 2 hours long). I would love to hear other thoughts on this proposed idea. It makes a lot of sense to me, but, like any proposed rules, there are sure to unintended consequences that I’m not seeing.

Good Talk,

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Until 2005 the United States imposed rules on common carriers (legacy telecom companies such as AT&T and Verizon) requiring them to sell bandwidth on their networks to other ISPs at discount prices. The idea was basically that the best way to ensure competition in the ISP space was to make incumbents sell their bandwidth to other ISPs at wholesale prices. This would allow the Earthlinks of the world to compete and, hopefully, create an environment where increased competition leads to lower prices and better service for the consumer. However, in 2005, the telecom companies successfully lobbied the FCC to change the rules.

The carriers argued that the rules unfairly penalized them simply because of the delivery mechanism they used. AT&T and Verizon delivered data services over old telephone wires. Because, as telephone companies, they were designated common carriers, the rules were different. Comcast, on the other hand, delivered data services over coaxial cable and was not subject to the FCC’s rule about wholesaling bandwidth. In 2005, the SEC agreed with the legacy carriers and dropped the rule requiring discounted prices.  Some say this decision by the FCC provided a rallying point for the net neutrality movement.

Other countries such as South Korea and Japan have largely maintained similar bandwidth sharing rules to the pre-2005 rules in the United States. One can question whether this is the reason some of these countries have much wider broadband adoption, much faster broadband speeds, and much lower prices. Should the FCC have maintained the pre-2005 rules? Did the rule change spark the call for net neutrality? Should Comcast be regulated as a common carrier? All questions worth exploring.

Good Talk,

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‘m taking this opportunity to underscore the real world implications of the net neutrality debate. So far I’ve only talked about the academic/theoretical implications, but the truth is, the debate and it’s outcome will have an impact on all of us. On October 16th, that impact was felt across the New York region.

If you were a Cable Vision subscriber and happened to visit Hulu on Friday 10/16 to watch something from Fox you would have received a the following message:

Fox (and it’s owner News Corp) and Cable Vision are in a dispute over carriage fees for Fox’s signal on Cable Vision’s network. These kinds of disputes are more and more common in the world of cable television, but this is the first time I can think of that it has impacted Internet users. Net Neutrality regulation would have allowed Cable Vision subscribers to access Fox’s content on the web.  The dispute between the two companies has been ongoing for a while now, however, the “negotiations” are clearing escalating. With the MLB playoffs and World Series and the Sunday NFL season on Fox, the stakes are clearly high. Fox and Cablevision ultimately reach a deal on October 18th, in time for 3 Million New Yorkers to catch game three of the world series.

Good Talk,

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