Sorry, optimists. If the net neutrality law working its way through Washington ends up getting approved, that doesn't necessarily mean that ISPs will stop traffic-shaping on their networks. Even the government realizes that; the FCC chairman created the "Open Internet Challenge" earlier this year with the sole purpose of creating apps that detect naughty neutrality-hating ISPs red-handed. That competition's been a bust, but researcher Dan Kaminsky's announced a free new app at the Black Hat conference in Vegas that promises to do the same thing. He calls it N00ter, and that makes us smile.
The Washington Post is reporting today that FCC Chairman Julius Genchowski has issued a statement indicating his willingness to allow the Comcast-NBC merger to proceed. Although, there is still a ray of hope for those opposed to the deal. Genchowski has outlined several conditions that Comcast would need to agree to in order to get what they want.
Comcast-NBC would need to make their content available over the Internet, but the amount of content, and the method are not specified. The new media conglomerate would also be required to share some content with competing cable and satellite firms. This is likely still not enough for many public interest groups to sign on. The fear is that Comcast's ownership of NBC would be a conflict of interest as they sell access to content from many competing sources. Network neutrality is also a concern; it is feared that Comcast would give priority to their own content.
The issue is far from settled. The US Justice Department is still reviewing the deal to ensure it passes anti-trust laws. The FCC and Justice Department have been working closely, though. So this move could indicate approval by both bodies soon.
Google and Verizon caused quite a fuss a few months ago when they came out with their proposal for net neutrality regulation. Many found its exemption of wireless technology unacceptable, and according to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski, the FCC wasn't too pleased with it either. Genachowski came short of a full scale indictment of the companies at the Web 2.0 summit, but laid some of the blame for the lack of progress on them.
“I would have preferred if they didn’t do exactly what they did when they did. It slowed down some processes that were leading to a resolution," Genachowski said. The FCC said when the proposal first came out that they weren't looking for more discussion on the topic. Instead they intended to move forward with reasserting FCC control over broadband. The public statement by Google and Verizon drew attention away from that course of action.
It's true, we haven't seen much movement on the net neutrality front since last summer. The firestorm over this proposal, and caution by the FCC may likely contributed to this lack of action, but it seems we should have seen some progress by now. Do you think the Google/Verizon plan did more harm than good?
There were rumblings last week that Verizon and Google had struck an unseemly deal to end net neutrality, but today the two companies have issued a statement clearing the whole matter up. The proposal for "an open internet" makes some bold suggestions, at least when you consider who's involved. For fans of net neutrality, it's encouraging, but still a bit of a mixed bag.
The policy proposal is based around two main points. First: "Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium." This all goes to the idea that content cannot be preferentially treated online. This is a big step for Verizon in particular with their status as an ISP. The statement also calls for enforceable penalties for companies found to be violating these tenets.
The second tentpole here is a sentiment that "America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure." Along with this a recognition that wireless and wireline broadband are different, and may need different levels of regulation to continue to grow. Google and Verizon appear to be conceding the point that wireless bandwidth is too constrained for all parts of net neutrality to be enforceable right away. What they are encouraging, is transparency. What do you think of the proposal? Sound off in the comments.
The news this morning seemed gloomy, and frankly, confusing. The New York Times was reporting that Google and Verizon had come to a deal wherein Google would pay Big Red carriage fees to ensure preferential treatment on Verizon's broadband network. A move like this could conceivably lead to more fees on users for accessing certain content online. This is completely counter to the principals of net neutrality that Google has long espoused. If true, this would have been a huge blow to net neutrality.
Just a few hours later Google's public policy Twitter account tried to clear things up saying the New York Times story is just wrong. Later in the day Google was on the offensive telling the Guardian, " The New York Times is quite simply wrong. We have not had any conversations with Verizon about paying for carriage of Google traffic. We remain as committed as we always have been to an open internet." Verizon also issued a statement saying the reports are mistaken.
So what do you believe? Are these accusations from the Times and others based on some actual facts of the Google/Verizon relationship that we are not aware of?
As FCC chair Genachowski moves toward an announcement on future broadband regulations, sources are indicating that he is leaning toward keeping the current system mostly intact. The turnaround comes in the wake of the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision that the FCC overstepped its autority when it fined Comcast in 2008 for throttling torrent traffic. There were rumors that the FCC would attempt to reclassify broadband providers giving them more regulatory powers, but that course of action has apparently been ruled out.
Instead of an overhaul in regulation, only minor changes would be made. The exact policies were not detailed, but the goal would be to ensure the FCC has some roll in future policy discussions. The whole issue has left the FCC's net neutrality plans up in the air. It is unclear if they will have the clout to push many changes in the current climate.
Where should the FCC go from here? Is it just time to pack it in and get ready for more traffic shaping?
The FCC has formally issued their draft net neutrality rules, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is calling foul. The document contains language covering so-called “reasonable network management”. According to the EFF, this creates a loophole that would allow ISPs to block BitTorrent.
The net neutrality debate really took off when in 2007, Comcast began blocking BitTorrent connections. Eventually the FCC forced them to stop, but Comcast is still appealing the decision. This copyright loophole in the draft could be used by content producers to encourage ISPs to enforce copyright law. In fact, the EFF claims the exact behavior that got Comcast in hot water, and kicked off the debate could be perfectly acceptable under the proposed regulations.
It may not be feasible for the FCC to be intimately involved in every aspect of an ISP’s network management. What’s the solution? Can they just require protocol agnostic management?
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.
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.
Verizon’s Chief Technology Officer, Dick Lynch, had some tough words for you heavy downloaders out there. He claimed that in the future, all internet access will be sold based on the amount of data a customer wants to consume. Lynch claims that so-called metered broadband is the only way forward. “We’re going to have to consider pricing structures that allow us to sell packages of bytes, and at the end of the day the concept of a flat-rate infinitely expandable service is unachievable,” said Lynch.
The Verizon CTO further explained that the model would likely be similar to the current model of wireless carriers, and not a specific price per gigabyte used. Verizon has previously decided against instituting caps on their FiOS service, but this could be an indication that all the uncapped internet goodness is about to end.
His statements were made as part of a larger discussion of Network Neutrality. Lynch specifically talked about the rise of high bandwidth applications and services. He said that some services “will not be happy on the public Internet.” Lynch speculated some other method of delivery for these services may be needed.
We’re used to hearing the outcry when a broadband provider tries to institute caps. Does the Internet-using population have the stomach for metered access? Let us know in the comments.