Category Archives: Broadband

Woz to FCC: Save the Internet

Wozniak to the FCC on net neutrality:
Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway.
He also details examples of how difficult it was to start a new service the way the telephone system used to be, how radio used to all be freely receivable, and how cable TV is mis-regulated. He summarizes his case:
I frequently speak to different types of audiences all over the country. When I’m asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to “sign on” with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I’m a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
Then he asks for all that not to happen to the Internet:
We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.
Ain’t that the truth.


Duopoly Cons Congress Members

73 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter drafted by telco and cableco lobbyists against net neutrality. Save the Internet has sufficiently fisked it. My favorite point is that when AT&T was required as a condition of acquiring Bellsouth in 2006 to abide by net neutrality, it increased its infrastructure investments. As soon as that two year requirement was up, so were the investments. (And they didn’t even honor all the requirements, such as a low-end $10/month service.)

The simple fact is that net neutrality was the condition under which the Internet grew to be what it is today, which is the last bastion of free speech and a free press in much of the world, especially in the United States. The only reason net neutrality is an issue is that the duopoly (telcos and cablecos) succeeded in their regulatory capture of the FCC during Kevin Martin’s term as chairman and did away with much it. The U.S. used to have among the fastest Internet speeds in the world. Since the duopoly got their way, the U.S. has fallen far behind dozens of other countries in connection speeds, availability, and update. While the U.S. NTIA claimed at least one user per ZIP code counted as real service.

We can let the telcos and cablecos continue to turn the Internet into cable TV, as they have said they want to do. Under the conditions they want, we never would have had the world wide web, google, YouTube, flickr, facebook, etc.

And left to their plan, the duopoly will continue cherry-picking densely-populated areas and leaving rural areas, such as south Georgia, where I live, to sink or swim. Most of the white area in the Georgia map never had anybody even try a speed test. Most of the rest of south Georgia had really slow access. Which maybe wouldn’t be a problem if we had competitive newspapers (we don’t) or competing TV stations (we don’t). Or if we didn’t need to publish public information like health care details online, as Sanford Bishop (D GA-02) says he plans to do. How many people in his district can even get to it? How many won’t because their link is too slow? How many could but won’t because it costs too much?

John Barrow (D GA-12) has a fancy flashy home page that most people in his district probably can’t get to. Yet he signed the letter against net neutrality.

I prefer an open Internet. How about you?

Why did the 73 Democrats sign the letter? Could it have to do with the duopoly making massive campaign contributions to the same Democrats and holding fancy parties for them?

The same lobbyists are after Republican members of Congress next.

Call your member of Congress and insist on giving the FCC power to enforce net neutrality rules.


NPRM Diagram 2: scope of rules

Here’s the diagram from the NPRM that the FCC folks mentioned frequently at the NANOG panel (The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010) regarding scope of net neutrality rule making:


It does seem to clarify some of the points made by the panelists.

More Liveblogging from NANOG Net Neutrality Panel

The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010. Notes continued from the previous post. See the pages 37-51 of the NPRM.

Question from a provider: VoIP traffic prioritization from essentially our own service?

Moderator: One thing that won’t be allowed is prioritizing your own service over someone else’s similar service; that’s almost the whole point. FCC person: This is contemplated in the document. Existing services wouldn’t have to be reworked rapidly. Seeking input. Reasons to be concerned. Monopoly over last mile has a position to differentially treat such a service. This is one of the core concerns.

Q: Giving the same priority to somebody else’s similar VoIP service is essentially creating a trust relationship; how much traffic will the other service provider send? Continue reading

Liveblogging from NANOG Net Neutrality Panel

The subtitle is The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010. The ground rules of the panel are that it’s not about politics or policy. It assumes there will be net neutrality, and it’s about getting actual network engineers and architects involved in implementing it. Prior reading: pages 41-51 of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). I’d actually recommend starting at page 37, which is where the NPRM discusses codifying the existing four Internet principles (see below).

A huge number of comments have been received already, by Jan 15 deadline. More comments are solicited. See also

The general idea is to take six proposed principles and turn them into rules that are enforceable and not unreasonable:

Proposed Rules: 6 Principles

  • Access to Content
  • Access to Applications and Services
  • Connect Devices to the Internet
  • Access to Competition
  • Nondiscrimination
  • Transparency
The first four principles have been around for several years. The last two, nondiscrimination and transparency, are the same as the ones Scott Bradner’s petition recommended back in June 2009. Back then I mentioned as I always do that the FCC could also stop talking about consumers and talk about participants. Interestingly, their slide at this talk did not use the word “consumer”, so maybe they’ve gotten to that point, too.

The FCC is also making a distinction between broadband and Internet. There are existing rules regarding “managed” vs. “specialized services” for broadband Internet access, but for net neutrality in general, maybe different rules are needed. Continue reading

Japan Still Far Ahead of US in Internet Connection Speeds

While the U.S. still hopes to get up to 10Mbps Internet connection speeds by 2012, Japan already has such speeds for cable Internet service almost everywhere. And yes, I mean Internet connections, not just broadband.


But in Japan cable Internet service is of declining popularity, because 30 or 40 Mbps for $50 or $60 per month is not really fast there.

DSL in Japan goes up to 50 Mbps for also around $50-$60/month.


But for actual fast, cheap, Internet connections, people in Japan buy Fiber to the Home (FTTH), which actually costs less and delivers from 100Mbps to 1Gbps.


Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., EDUCAUSE has proposed 100Mbps national broadband using a funding method that already failed in Texas.

Japan didn’t get to 100Mbps by a single government-funded network. It did it by actually enforcing competition among broadband providers. Why did it do this? Because a private entrepreneur, Masayoshi Son, and his company Softbank, pestered the Japanese government until it did so.

Thus it’s refreshing that these graphs laying out how far ahead of the U.S. Japan is come from the New America Foundation. Chair? Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.

Internet, Not Broadband, for National Policy

ipprinciples.png A national broadband policy is what you get when you put bellheads in charge. Fortunately, Scott Bradner has been on the Internet since the beginning, and explains the difference.
Broadband is not the Internet. Broadband is shorthand for a diverse class of wired and wireless digital transmission technologies. The Internet, in contrast, is a set of public protocols for inter-networking systems that specifies how data packets are structured and processed. Broadband technologies, at their essence, are high-capacity and always-on. The essence of the Internet is (a) that it carries all packets that follow its protocols regardless of what kinds of data the packets carry, (b) that it can interconnect all networks that follow those protocols, and (c) its protocols are defined via well-established public processes.

There’s risk in confusing broadband and Internet. If the National Broadband Plan starts from the premise that the U.S. needs the innovation, increased productivity, new ideas and freedoms of expression that the Internet affords, then the Plan will be shaped around the Internet. If, instead, the Plan is premised on a need for broadband, it fails to address the ARRA’s mandated objectives directly. More importantly, the premise that broadband is the primary goal entertains the remaking of the Internet in ways that could put its benefits at risk. The primary goal of the Plan should be broadband connections to the Internet.

It’s a petition. Please sign it.



Therefore, we urge that the FCC’s National Broadband Plan emphasize that broadband connection to the Internet is the primary goal. In addition, we strongly suggest that the Plan incorporate the FCC Internet Policy Statement of 2005 and extend it to (a) include consumer information that meaningfully specifies connection performance and identifies any throttling, filtering, packet inspection, data collection, et cetera, that the provider imposes upon the connection, (b) prohibit discriminatory or preferential treatment of packets based on sender, recipient or packet contents. Finally, we suggest that the Internet is such a critical infrastructure that enforcement of mandated behavior should be accompanied by penalties severe enough to deter those behaviors.
While you’re at it, urge the FCC to stop talking about “consumers” and start talking about participants.

Chess End-Game for the Duopoly?

This is rich:
“Now is not the time, nor is this the appropriate proceeding, to engage in a debate about the need for net neutrality obligations,” two TWC lawyers warned the FCC on Monday. The discussion should stay strictly focused on broadband deployment, the company insists. “Debates in this proceeding about new net neutrality regulations would only divert attention from these important goals, delaying the distribution of funds while generating considerable contention when the Commission should instead be fostering a spirit of collaboration.”
Matthew Lasar, writing in ars technica, makes a familiar point:
And one of them, Comcast, definitely thinks that the agency was way out of line to invoke this statement when sanctioning the company for P2P throttling last year, and has filed legal papers against the FCC in federal court. Expect arguments that the Commission never really properly established the declaration as a set of rules when the trial starts.
Well, yeah, I’d expect to hear arguments like that, because the duopoly’s paid shills have been making them ever since the FCC made that toothless declaration of principles.

Yet it seems the Obama administration has taken the initiative to do what the FCC never did:

But the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has hard-wired the FCC’s pronouncement into law, at least when it comes to stimulus grantees. The legislation requires of grant recipients “at a minimum, adherence to the principles contained in the Commission’s broadband policy statement.” Plus the government must publish, in consultation with the Commission, “the non-discrimination and network interconnection obligations that shall be contractual conditions of grants awarded.”
Still, why is Time Warner picking now to be so intransigent? And why is NCTA claiming FCC can’t interpret those principles, because
“Imposing new and untested nondiscrimination or interconnection requirements as a condition of stimulus funding risks injecting contentiousness, uncertainty, and delay into a process that should focus on creating new jobs and new broadband connections as quickly as possible,”
While NCTA and TW are of course themselves injecting contentiousness, uncertainty, and delay into the process.

Hm, so if the current duopoly won’t accept these principles, the stimulus money may have to go to other companies. Which could mean the end of the duopoly.

The duopoly is playing chess with death.

Lessig’s Herculean Holiday Present: Reboot the FCC

1990.05.0243.jpeg Here’s a good test for the new U.S. Executive: to recognize that steady pragmatism means radical change, starting with the FCC:
The solution here is not tinkering. You can’t fix DNA. You have to bury it. President Obama should get Congress to shut down the FCC and similar vestigial regulators, which put stability and special interests above the public good. In their place, Congress should create something we could call the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA), charged with a simple founding mission: “minimal intervention to maximize innovation.” The iEPA’s core purpose would be to protect innovation from its two historical enemies—excessive government favors, and excessive private monopoly power.

Reboot the FCC, We’ll stifle the Skypes and YouTubes of the future if we don’t demolish the regulators that oversee our digital pipelines. By Lawrence Lessig, Newsweek Web Exclusive, 23 Dec 2008

Lessig gets the connection with his old topic of intellectual property and copyright. Those are monopolies granted by the federal government, and they have been abused by the monopoly holders just like the holders of communication monopolies: Continue reading

Positive Externalities: What Yoo Ignores

frischmann.jpg It turns out Prof. Chris Yoo has been rebutted by legal scholars before:
Our article directly replies to a series of articles published by Professor Christopher Yoo on this topic. Yoo’s scholarship has been very influential in shaping one side of the debate. Yoo has mounted a sophisticated economic attack on network neutrality, drawing from economic theories pertaining to congestion, club goods, public goods, vertical integration, industrial organization, and other economic subdisciplines. Yet he draws selectively.

For example, his discussion of congestion and club goods is partial in that he ignores the set of congestible club goods that are most comparable to the Internet – public infrastructure. Yoo focuses on the negative externalities generated by users (i.e., congestion) but barely considers the positive externalities generated by users (he simply assumes that they are best internalized by network owners). Yoo appeals to vertical integration theory to support his trumpeting of ‘network diversity’ as the clarion call for the Internet, but he myopically focuses on the teaching of the Chicago School of economics and fails to consider adequately the extensive post-Chicago School literature. And so on.

In our article, we explain the critical flaws in Yoo’s arguments and present a series of important arguments that he and most other opponents of network neutrality regulation ignore.

Network Neutrality and the Economics of an Information Superhighway: A Reply to Professor Yoo, BRETT M. FRISCHMANN, Loyola University of Chicago – Law School; Fordham University – School of Law, BARBARA VAN SCHEWICK, Stanford Law School, Jurimetrics, Vol. 47, 2007, Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 1014691, Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 351

Hm, “positive externalities generated by users” as in participation and ad hoc content creation.

The authors also address David P. Reed’s point that competition is not the holy grail of networking:

By focusing only on the market for last-mile broadband networks, Yoo not only neglects the importance of unfettered application-level innovation for realizing economic growth and the role of a nondiscriminatory access regime in fostering the production of a wide range of public and nonmarket goods. His argument also neglects other ways to solve the problem of broadband deployment that would not impede competition and innovation in complementary markets.