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Paul Merrell

FCC Turns Itself into a Deregulatory Agency - WhoWhatWhy - 0 views

  • Since taking office, President Donald Trump has wasted no time in proposing rollbacks to Obama-era federal regulations. So, it should come as no surprise that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted last month to propose changes to current regulations on Internet service providers.

    Spearheaded by Ajit Pai — the Trump-appointed FCC chairman and former lawyer for Verizon — the 2-1 vote is the first step in dismantling the Open Internet Order. The lone FCC Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, was overruled by Pai and fellow commissioner Michael O’Reilly.

    The 2015 order classified broadband internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Opponents of the current state of net neutrality argue that the rules are archaic and place unnecessary — even harmful — restrictions on internet service providers (ISPs), leading to lack of innovation and investment.

    While it’s true that policies conceived in the 1930s could hardly anticipate the complexities of the modern Internet, a complete rollback of Title II protections would leave ISPs free to favor their own services and whichever company pays for upgraded service. Considering relaxed FEC rules on media ownership and lack of antitrust enforcement, some could argue that a rollback of net neutrality is even more toxic to innovation and affordable pricing.

    That is, fast lanes could be created for companies with deeper pockets, effectively giving them an advantage over companies and individuals who can’t pay extra. This approach effectively penalizes small businesses, nonprofits and innovative start-ups.

    Today’s Internet is so vast and so pervasive that it’s hard to grasp the impact that an abandonment of net neutrality would have on every aspect of our culture.

  • While the FCC’s proposed change will touch most Americans, net neutrality remains a mystifying concept to non-techies. To help our readers better understand the issue, we have compiled some videos that explain net neutrality and its importance.

    The FCC will be accepting comments from the public on their website until August 16, 2017.

Paul Merrell

FCC Votes To Start Slashing Net Neutrality Protections - 0 views

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon voted to begin slashing regulations protecting a free and open internet.

    The decision (pdf) ran along party lines, with the FCC’s two Republican members voting to dismantle net neutrality. Mignon Clyburn, the Commission’s Democratic member, was the sole dissenting vote.

    “While the majority engages in flowery rhetoric about light-touch regulation and so on, the endgame appears to be no-touch regulation and a wholesale destruction of the FCC’s public interest authority in the 21st century,” Clyburn wrote in her dissent, according to The Hill.

Paul Merrell

Republicans seek fast-track repeal of net neutrality | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Republicans in Congress yesterday unveiled a new plan to fast track repeal of the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules.

    Introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and 14 Republican co-sponsors, the "Resolution of Disapproval" would use Congress' fast track powers under the Congressional Review Act to cancel the FCC's new rules.

  • Saying the resolution "would require only a simple Senate majority to pass under special procedural rules of the Congressional Review Act," Collins' announcement called it "the quickest way to stop heavy-handed agency regulations that would slow Internet speeds, increase consumer prices and hamper infrastructure development, especially in his Northeast Georgia district."

    Republicans can use this method to bypass Democratic opposition in the Senate by requiring just a simple majority rather than 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but "it would still face an almost certain veto from President Obama," National Journal wrote. "Other attempts to fast-track repeals of regulations in the past have largely been unsuccessful."

    This isn't the only Republican effort to overturn the FCC's net neutrality rules. Another, titled the "Internet Freedom Act," would wipe out the new net neutrality regime. Other Republican proposals would enforce some form of net neutrality rules while limiting the FCC's power to regulate broadband.

  • The FCC's rules also face lawsuits from industry consortiums that represent broadband providers. USTelecom filed suit yesterday just after the publication of the rules in the Federal Register. Today, the CTIA Wireless Association, National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and American Cable Association (ACA) all filed lawsuits to overturn the FCC's Open Internet Order.

    The CTIA and NCTA are the most prominent trade groups representing the cable and wireless industries. The ACA, which represents smaller providers, said it supports net neutrality rules but opposes the FCC's decision to reclassify broadband as a common carrier service. However, a previous court decision ruled that the FCC could not impose the rules without reclassifying broadband.

Paul Merrell

The Attack on Net Neutrality Begins | The Fifth Column - 0 views

  •  The United States Telecom Association has filed a lawsuit to overturn the net neutrality rules set by the Federal Communications Commission this past February. In its Monday morning Press Release USTelecom, who represents Verizon and AT&T among others, said it filed a lawsuit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia joining a similar law suit filed by Alamo Broadband Inc.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published its net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Monday and, according to procedure, that began a 60-day countdown until they go into effect (June 12). Their publication also opened a 30-day window for Internet service providers to appeal.  USTelecom and Alamo Broadband wasted no time.  USTelecom filed a previous action preserving the issue according to local court rule prior to the formal petition in March.
  • The rules, which were voted on in February, reclassify broadband under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act and require that ISPs transmit all Web traffic at the same speed. Over 400 pages long, USTelecom filed a CD of the rules as an exhibit with its action.

    This suit is predicted to be the first of many, as broadband groups like AT&T to congressional Republicans have signaled that they plan to fight the decision.

Paul Merrell

Join the Battle for Net Neutrality - 0 views

  • Washington insiders said it couldn't be done. But the public got loud in protest, the FCC gave in, and we won Title II net neutrality rules. Now Comcast is furious. They want to destroy our victory with their massive power in Congress. You won net neutrality. Now, are you ready to defend it?
  • But cable companies are strong in Congress.

    Cable giants have been lobbying Congress for years. Now they're asking for big favors. We have to stop them. Find out if your leaders work for you, or your cable company.

  • HOW WE WON! Battle for the Net
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    The FCC issued its formal ruling on net neutrality today, over 300 pages. http://goo.gl/aX4fQg

    Now the battle shifts to Congress, where legislation has been introduced to reverse the FCC decision and permit fast lane charges by FCC  for web businesses that can afford it. The rest of us would be stuck in the slow lane. 

    Don't miss the link to the "How We Won" page that I've highlighted. It's very impressive, a compact history of a massive citizen victory over government resistance and entrenched interests like Comcast and AT&T. 
Paul Merrell

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: This Is How We Will Ensure Net Neutrality | WIRED - 0 views

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    Victory on Net Neutrality in sight. The FCC Chairman is circulating a draft rule that designates both cable and wireless ISPs as "common carriers" under Title II.  
Paul Merrell

FCC Chairman Moves Toward Real Net Neutrality Protections | Free Press - 0 views

  • In an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated that he will move to protect Net Neutrality by reclassifying Internet access under Title II of the Communications Act.

    The chairman plans to circulate a new rule in early February. The agency is expected to vote on it during its Feb. 26 open meeting.

    Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

    “Chairman Wheeler appears to have heard the demands of the millions of Internet users who have called for real Net Neutrality protections. The FCC’s past decisions to put its oversight authority on ice resulted in Net Neutrality being under constant threat. Wheeler now realizes that it’s best to simply follow the law Congress wrote and ignore the bogus claims of the biggest phone and cable companies and their well-financed front groups.

    “Of course the devil will be in the details, and we await publication of the agency's final decision. But it’s refreshing to see the chairman firmly reject the industry’s lies and scare tactics. As we’ve said all along, Title II is a very flexible, deregulatory framework that ensures investment and innovation while also preserving the important public interest principles of nondiscrimination, universal service, interconnection and competition.”

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    Title II is for "common carriers." See http://transition.fcc.gov/Reports/1934new.pdf pg. 35. Under Section 202:

    "(a) It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make any unjust or
    unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services for or in connection with like communication service, directly or indirectly, by any means or device, or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons, or locality, or to subject any particular person, class of persons, or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.

    (b) Charges or services, whenever referred to in this Act, include charges
    for, or services in connection with, the use of common carrier lines of
    communication, whether derived from wire or radio facilities, in chain broadcasting or incidental to radio communication of any kind.

    (c) Any carrier who knowingly violates the provisions of this section shall
    forfeit to the United States the sum of $6,000 for each such offense and $300 for each and every day of the continuance of such offense. 

Paul Merrell

FCC 'very much' eyeing Web rules shakeup | TheHill - 0 views

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    Of course Comcast, et ilk don't want Title II regulation. "Hey, just because we've divvied up the turf so that we've got geographical monopolies doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to leverage our monopolies into new monopolies."

    But the big cable companies got where they are by buying up community-granted and regulated monopoly utility companies. As part of consolidating those markets, the soon-to-be-gnormous cable companies, lobbied to get community regulation weakened and here we are with the FCC, with the cable companies now acting as ISPs too, which is straightforward telecommunications provider service, and these guys want to be able to charge a premium to the big internet content companies for fast-service after their ISP customers have already paid for fast service? So they can slow down the competition for their own content services.  Heck, yes, FCC. No one forced Comcast and crew to become telecommunications providers. Make 'em live with telecommunications regulation like all the other telcos. They are government-created monopolies and they should be regulated as such.   
Paul Merrell

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Net Neutrality (HBO) - YouTube - 0 views

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    John Oliver riffs on net neutrality.
Paul Merrell

Democrats unveil legislation forcing the FCC to ban Internet fast lanes - The Washingto... - 0 views

  • Democratic lawmakers will unveil a piece of bicameral legislation Tuesday that would force the Federal Communications Commission to ban fast lanes on the Internet.

    The proposal, put forward by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), requires the FCC to use whatever authority it sees fit to make sure that Internet providers don't speed up certain types of content (like Netflix videos) at the expense of others (like e-mail). It wouldn't give the commission new powers, but the bill — known as the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act — would give the FCC crucial political cover to prohibit what consumer advocates say would harm startup companies and Internet services by requiring them to pay extra fees to ISPs.

    "Americans are speaking loud and clear," said Leahy, who is holding a hearing on net neutrality in Vermont this summer. "They want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider."

  • The Democratic bill is another sign that net neutrality is dividing lawmakers along partisan lines. In May, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced a bill that would prevent the FCC from reclassifying broadband. A Democratic aide conceded Monday that the Leahy-Matsui bill is unlikely to attract Republican cosponsors.

    The fact that Republicans control the House make it unlikely that the Leahy-Matsui bill will advance very far. Still, the politics of net neutrality are obscuring the underlying economics at stake, according to the aide, who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

  • "People are missing the point," the aide said. "The point is: Ban paid prioritization. Because that'll fundamentally change how the Internet works."

    FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said that he's reserving the reclassification option in case his existing plan fails to protect consumers. He has been reluctant to use that option so far, likely because it would be politically controversial. But increasingly, it seems net neutrality is divisive enough without him.

Paul Merrell

Report: Verizon Claimed Public Utility Status To Get Government Perks - Slashdot - 0 views

  • Research for the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) has been released which details 'how Verizon deliberately moves back and forth between regulatory regimes, classifying its infrastructure either like a heavily regulated telephone network or a deregulated information service depending on its needs. The chicanery has allowed Verizon to raise telephone rates, all the while missing commitments for high-speed internet deployment' (PDF). In short, Verizon pushed for the government to give it common carrier privileges under Title II in order to build out its fiber network with tax-payer money. Result: increased service rates on telephone users to subsidize Verizon's 'infrastructure investment.' When it comes to regulations on Verizon's fiber network, however, Verizon has been pushing the government to classify its services as that of information only — i.e., beyond Title II. Verizon has made about $4.4 billion in additional revenue in New York City alone, 'money that's funneled directly from a Title II service to an array of services that currently lie beyond Title II's reach.' And it's all legal. An attorney at advocacy group Public Knowledge said it best: 'To expect that you can come in and use public infrastructure and funds to build a network and then be free of any regulation is absurd....When Verizon itself is describing these activities as a Title II common carrier, how can the FCC look at broadband internet and continue acting as though it's not a telecommunication network?'"
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    Let's also not forget that what is now named "Verizon" used to be named Bell Atlantic, one of the seven Baby Bells that were spun off by AT&T by government order during antitrust proceedings.  In other words, this is one of the companies rate-payers financed through a heavily-regulated analog telephony absolute monopoly. But Verizon wants to spread its wings and escape the chains of regulation as a telecommunications carrier. While having its cake and eating it to, according to this article. The FCC has poised itself through a proposed rule with the flexibility to postpone a decision on net neutrality. 

    AT&T famously was allowed to keep its R&D arm while being freed of the expense of upgrading the U.S. telephony network from analog to digital and from copper wire to fibre optic. 

    And pay for those Baby Bells to make that transition we did. I remember monthly bills for a two person office running as high as $1,100 a month for calls all carried from Baby Bell to AT&T and back to another Baby Bell. All at state-regulated rates with FCC looking the other way. But now Verizon, Comcast (the originally munipally regulated cable television monopolies) and the few other "competing" survivors of that broadband rollout, having had their infrastructure paid for by the ratepayers, want to fly off and begin charging us at the other end of the pipe,via charges to content providers that will be passed on to us. Leading to the squeezing out of Mom and Pop internet businesses by the big content providers that can afford the charges and pass them on to us.

    This is looking more and more like another massive rip-off of the customers who already paid for that infrasture.

    Is that banksters I smell, privatizing a enormous public utility in the name of free markets?      
Paul Merrell

Google Fiber: No Charge For Peering, No Fast Lanes - Slashdot - 0 views

  • "Addressing the recent controversy over Netflix paying ISPs directly for better data transfer speeds, Google's Director of Network Engineering explains how their Fiber server handles peering. He says, 'Bringing fiber all the way to your home is only one piece of the puzzle. We also partner with content providers (like YouTube, Netflix, and Akamai) to make the rest of your video's journey shorter and faster. (This doesn't involve any deals to prioritize their video 'packets' over others or otherwise discriminate among Internet traffic — we don't do that.) Like other Internet providers, Google Fiber provides the 'last-mile' Internet connection to your home. ... So that your video doesn't get caught up in this possible congestion, we invite content providers to hook up their networks directly to ours. This is called 'peering,' and it gives you a more direct connection to the content that you want. ... We don't make money from peering or colocation; since people usually only stream one video at a time, video traffic doesn't bog down or change the way we manage our network in any meaningful way — so why not help enable it?'"
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    The difference between an ISP that does not also sell content and those that do. Those that do are against net neutrality so they can throttle competing content providers. 
Paul Merrell

F.C.C. Backs Opening Net Rules for Debate - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to open for public debate new rules meant to guarantee an open Internet. Before the plan becomes final, though, the chairman of the commission, Tom Wheeler, will need to convince his colleagues and an array of powerful lobbying groups that the plan follows the principle of net neutrality, the idea that all content running through the Internet’s pipes is treated equally.

    While the rules are meant to prevent Internet providers from knowingly slowing data, they would allow content providers to pay for a guaranteed fast lane of service. Some opponents of the plan, those considered net neutrality purists, argue that allowing some content to be sent along a fast lane would essentially discriminate against other content.

  • “We are dedicated to protecting and preserving an open Internet,” Mr. Wheeler said immediately before the commission vote. “What we’re dealing with today is a proposal, not a final rule. We are asking for specific comment on different approaches to accomplish the same goal, an open Internet.”
  • Mr. Wheeler argued on Thursday that the proposal did not allow a fast lane. But the proposed rules do not address the connection between an Internet service provider, which sells a connection to consumers, and the operators of backbone transport networks that connect various parts of the Internet’s central plumbing.

    That essentially means that as long as an Internet service provider like Comcast or Verizon does not slow the service that a consumer buys, the provider can give faster service to a company that pays to get its content to consumers unimpeded

  • ...2 more annotations...
  • The plan will be open for comment for four months, beginning immediately.
  • The public will have until July 15 to submit initial comments on the proposal to the commission, and until Sept. 10 to file comments replying to the initial discussions.
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    I'll need to read the proposed rule, but this doesn't sound good. the FCC majority tries to spin this as options still being open, but I don't recall ever seeing formal regulations changed substantially from their proposed form. If their were to be substantial change, another proposal and comment period would be likely. The public cannot comment on what has not been proposed, so substantial departure from the proposal, absent a new proposal and comment period, would offend basic principles of public notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedures Act.

    The proverbial elephant in the room that the press hasn't picked up on yet is the fight that is going on behind the scenes in the Dept. of Justice. If the Anti-trust Division gets its way, DoJ's public comments on the proposed rule could blow this show out of the water. The ISPs are regulated utility monopolies in vast areas of the U.S. with market consolidation at or near the limits of what the anti-trust folk will tolerate. And leveraging one monopoly (service to subscribers) to impose another (fees for internet-based businesses to gain high speed access) is directly counter to the Sherman Act's section 2.   http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/2



Paul Merrell

FCC's Wheeler Promises Net Neutrality Action 'Shortly' | Adweek - 0 views

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    Over a million signed the petition. Wow! But note that the battle is not over. The FCC could reimplement net neutrality now if it reclassified broadband internet as a telecommunications service. That the FCC has not already set this in motion raises danger flags. All it takes is for a few contracts to be signed to give the ISPs 5th Amendment taking clause claims for damages against the government for reimplementing net neutrality the right way, A "reasonable investment-backed expectation" is the relevant 5th Amendment trigger. 
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