Remember when Comcast was sanctioned by the FCC for throttling BitTorrent? Well, they’re still in court trying to get that overturned, but at the same time they’re making some noise about the whole issue of Net Neutrality. On the face of it, their position sounds downright reasonable. Comcast is pushing for “clear rules” for Net Neutrality from the FCC.
The internet giant is apparently worried that the all but inevitable regulations pushed by FCC Chair Genachowski could end up being overly broad and confusing. Comcast says that they were completely surprised that fiddling with users’ BitTorrent connections and lying about it would be frowned upon. They just want to avoid that sort of embarrassing incident in the future.
Comcast also spoke disapprovingly of the tone of debate saying, “It’s truly sad that the debate around “net neutrality,” or the need to regulate to “preserve an open Internet,” has been filled with so much rhetoric, vituperation, and confusion.” There seems to be a bit of a disconnect here, considering a lot of that rhetoric comes from the ISPs. It could be that Comcast is just trying to save face as it becomes clear Net Neutrality will move forward.
The FCC recently requested comment on transitioning to a fully IP-based phone network to replace landlines. Apparently AT&T’s ears perked up upon hearing that. Good ol’ Ma Bell submitted a 32 page position to the FCC in support of the changeover. They requested the FCC eliminate the rules that require carriers to provide landline service and decide on a date to phase out the technology.
According to AT&T, the landline business is on a steep decline and is expensive for AT&T and other carriers to run. Between 2000 and 2008 the use of long distance minutes on landlines fell 42 percent. Revenues also fell 27 percent. Perhaps the best indicator that it’s time for a change is that less than one in five homes rely exclusively on landlines. AT&T asked for regulatory changes that would allow them to transition away from copper lines. Ma Bell also hinted that telecom regulations ought to be handled by the federal government and not states. While this may very well be the time to begin transitioning to new technology, AT&T provided no suggestions on how to serve those 20 percent of people that rely on landlines.
Do you think we’re ready to move away from the old, reliable copper phone line?
FCC commissioner Clyburn is none too pleased with Verizon right now. Big Red’s response to the inquiry about the new $350 early termination fee for advanced devices was sent off last week. The FCC had asked Verizon to explain why they increased the fee assessed to customers that leave their contracts early, pointing out that customers still had substantial cancellation charges even near the end of a contract. Verizon said it was only to recoup the costs of the more expensive phones they sell, and in the long run would keep prices low for people wishing to buy inexpensive handsets.
The FCC response was vaguely threatening, calling the Verizon response, “unsatisfying and, in some cases, troubling.” The commissioner also scolded Verizon for denying they charge customers who inadvertently launch their web browsers. Clyburn cautioned that ETFs were not to be used to cover the costs of doing business. The commissioner’s statement closes with a promise that, “I look forward to exploring this issue in greater depth with my colleagues in the New Year.” Now that’s how you threaten someone.
Comcast must have thought no one would notice when, in 2007, the ISP began preferentially slowing or blocking BitTorrent packets on its network. Users quickly noticed that Comcast was up to something; an AP investigation confirmed their findings. Now a class-action that came from that incident has been settled with Comcast agreeing to pay $16 million.
Comcast had at first claimed that it had nothing to do with the slowdowns. Even when they were found out, the issue was explained as acceptable traffic management. The FCC didn’t see it that way, and Comcast was forced to reverse course. However, that didn’t stop the lawsuits from being filed.
The settlement in question certainly doesn’t mean Comcast is admitting any wrongdoing. A Comcast statement claims the settlement is intended to “avoid a potentially lengthy and distracting legal dispute that would serve no useful purpose." Parties to the class-action can expect a rather small share of the funds. Each valid claim will be paid a maximum of $16. It might not be a lot of money, but it is Comcast’s money.
Two Fujitsu-branded tablets found their way to the FTC, including the LifeBook T5010, which is already on sale. But it's the T900/TH900 that has techies turning their heads.
According to the filing, Fujitsu's T900 tablet will feature Intel's new Core 2 Duo i7-670 Arrandale processor clocked at 2.66GHz on a 1066MHz frontside bus with 4MB of cache and an integrated graphics processor. It will be housed in Intel's QM57 chipset.
Other specs look to be the same as the T5010, including a 13.3-inch WXGA display and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi. Other than that, details remain sparse, but that's okay - Fujitsu had us at Arrandale.
It gets better. Qisada sent the contraption to the FCC, and according to the filing, the router comes with an odd mix of features. We can justify the touchscreen, but a speaker? Apparently it will come in handy when you're watching YouTube videos or tuning into FM radio stations on a device we've traditionally relied on to keep quiet and push our packets to the right PC.
As a router, it boasts 802.11n Wi-Fi, but only one spare Ethernet port. It also includes a USB port and mini USB port.
Check out the FCC page with plenty of related PDF docs and pics here.
The issue is pretty simple. In 2008 Comcast secretly slowed down access to peer-to-peer data sharing sites, which it’s not supposed to do. Then, to compound it’s error, it lied to the press and consumers about what it was doing. The FCC stepped in and gave Comcast a stern talking to, and required Comcast to write on the chalkboard a hundred times: “I will not engage in discriminatory practices.” Minor punishment, really.
But it didn’t sit well with Comcast, which filed suit against the FCC in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Basically, Comcast is arguing that the FCC doesn’t have the legislative authority to regulate Comcast’s behavior, and therefore the FCC’s ruling is unenforceable and should be thrown out. What the FCC did, according to Comcast, was to enforce policy, not regulation or law. And policy doesn’t count.
The FCC counters it does have legislative authority, under the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and Congress did grant it authority over cable companies. The FCC also pointed out that Comcast, when approved by the FCC to acquire another cable company, was specifically warned it would be held to terms of the policy in question: the FCC’s Internet Policy Principles. The FCC wrote in its court brief: “Comcast ignored that crystal clear warning. It cannot seriously claim to be surprised by the consequences.”
You have to seriously wonder how much people pay attention to issues, wether in general or specifically regarding the Internet. Take for example Tajinder Jagdev, the head of Communications, Media and Entertainment of the UK business analytics firm SAS. Jagdev sees the net neutrality proposals recently made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a bad thing, because while they rules benefit some parties, they harm others. Thank you Mr. Moto.
According to Jagdev, “The ruling would benefit content companies like Skype but cut into the revenues generated by telecom providers from phone calls. This ultimately raises outstanding issues that need to be addressed in order for the interests of all parties involved to be protected.” Which is exactly what the rules are supposed to do. An objective of the FCC is to keep Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as AT&T and Time Warner, from stifling creativity on the web. By definition its rule proposals will have to give some preference to content providers over ISPs.
Jagdev also maintains that unrestricted use: surfers running amok, visiting whatever site they pleased, would clog bandwidth and diminish the experience of all users. According to Jagdev: "SAS has already identified that a tiered billing model, in which users pay more money for higher bandwidth packages, is perhaps the most likely solution to remedy the problem of consumer inequality in the future and generate revenues."
Problem here is the FCC hasn’t ruled out such billing practices. What the ISPs have discovered is when applying them consumers rebel, forcing the ISPs to backtrack. The FCC isn’t the problem here, we are.
Ian Williams, of The Inquirer, notes that Jagdev also seems to think that the rules proposed by the FCC are new--they aren’t. Rather the FCC is trying to maintain the status quo. But this certainly isn’t Jagdev’s only misunderstanding of the FCC’s actions.
As Jagdev’s advice was offered without charge, it is safe to assume we got what we paid for.
It’s an odd spectacle, government rule-making. And watching the process unfold in the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) effort to regulate the Internet seems almost like an out-of-body experience. The basic thrust is easy to understand. The FCC would like for the Internet to remain open, or net neutral, regarding content. All comers to the Internet party should have the same right to move about the tubes as any of the other party-goers.
Seems reasonable, at least to users of the Internet, but not so reasonable to the providers of the Internet. They, the likes of Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner, would like to regulate the party--giving some party-goers special access, while denying it to others. Sort of like putting a bouncer at the door. The Internet providers argue in this way they can make sure that the party doesn’t become too crowded; that those who attend will have a quality experience. Two methods for regulating access have been suggested: (1) curb certain types of Internet traffic, like Verizon did earlier this year with bit-torrenting; and (2) charge for preferential access.
The FCC is concerned that provider-based regulation could have some negative consequences, stymying the potential of the Internet, which up to now has thrived on free exchange. To this end the FCC has proposed six rules that would regulate the actions of Internet providers. These regulations won’t allow for a free-for-all on the Internet, as some deference must be paid to the needs of Internet providers to manage their systems and comply with legal requirements. But within this context the FCC seeks to make the Internet as neutral as it might be, with it’s fifth rule proposal requiring Internet providers “to treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner.”
Interestingly, this unanimous decision by the FCC (comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans), seems to be sitting well with all parties concerned--both sides conceding it could have been worse. What’s fascinating about this all is the absence of us, the ‘normal’ Internet users from this debate. The providers are there. The major services (like Google) are there. But we aren’t there, even though we are as likely to be impacted by any decision the FCC makes. Like I said: an out-of-body experience.
Verizon is coming out swinging as the FCC is poised to officially adopt new Network Neutrality regulations. The FCC is expected to approve FCC Chair Julius Genachowski’s new policies on October 22nd. The cell carriers contend that the realities of managing their networks are not compatible with the new rules. They have even gone so far as to claim that their mobile networks could be “crippled”.
Verizon CEO, Ivan Seidenberg, didn’t mince words, saying of the proposal, “[It’s] a mistake, pure and simple - an analog idea in a digital universe." He claimed that the regulations may keep Verizon from prioritizing packets for important applications, like emergency communications for first-responders.
Seidenberg indicated that Net Neutrality regulations could damage, or halt, our “progress toward a connected world.” Even as the Verizon chief was making these claims, the FCC received a letter signed by 30 prominent investors in technology businesses that support the proposed regulations. Is Seidenberg overstating his case, or trying desperately to save us all from ourselves?
In a separate joint statement with Google, Verizon clarified that they accept Net Neutrality principals for wireline broadband, just not for their wireless networks. "Verizon and Google might seem unlikely bedfellows in the current debate around network neutrality, or an open Internet. And while it's true we do disagree quite strongly about certain aspects of government policy in this area -- such as whether mobile networks should even be part of the discussion -- there are many issues on which we agree," the companies wrote.