Monday, February 13, 2017

Verizon "backs down", offers mobile users unlimited data


Verizon has now offered unlimited data plans, both at the family level and individual.  For me it is $80 a month, and I just converted a few moments ago online.  (Yes, the site was slow and busy.)  My own bill increases $16 a month. NBC Nightly News has a typical video covering the story.

Verizon and other companies are finding themselves going back to unlimited plans because fewer people today need to buy new phones.  About 80% of Internet access is now mobile.  People with really huge data use though can have speeds slowed down.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Trump FCC appointee starts to dissolve network neutrality rules, but maybe without much practical effect


Ajit Pai, Trump’s new FCC chairman, is starting to erode the previous administration’s network neutrality rules, according to a story by Cecilia Kang on Feb. 5.
 
Nine companies were prevented from offering Internet basics to low-income consumers, although no consumers had started the programs yet.  Ajit also believes that zero-rating practices of some providers regarding data limits will help consumers and not unduly affect fair competition.

Pai has said he disagrees with the idea that Internet service providers are “utilities”, but he has not said how he will challenge the finding.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thune (R-SD) wants to provide bipartisan compromise and stability on net neutrality, regardless of Trump or any other president


Senator John Thune (R-SD) wants to pass a “moderate” bill on network neutrality so that the Internet is not subject to whims of extremes on other side, something strong enough to prevent overly monopolistic or anti-competitive behavior, writes Tim Lee in Vox now.



Amir Nasr has a shorter but similar article on Morning Consult here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump names network neutrality foe to head FCC, but it's much less clear how important this really will be


Donald Trump has named a “network neutrality foe” Ajit Pai to head the Federal Communications Commission.

Timothy B. Lee has a detailed article on the possible significance of his appointment on Vox here.     He also refers to a speech given by Pai to the FCC in December 2016 here.

Let’s cut to the chase.  Have telecommunications companies ever charged new content providers with the right to be “hooked up” to their Internet services and be found?  I’ve never heard of that.  Brain Fung had mentioned the idea last fall in the Washington Post.  Lee mentions that when Facebook got started, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have to worry about this, but Zuckerberg got Facebook started long before there was meaningful network neutrality regulation anyway. Lee also says that it could take over a year for the undoing of Net Neutrality to occur, and that litigation would follow.  (Private contract agreements also come into play.)

It does sound logical that telecom companies could be concerned about very high volume sites (and these might include porn sites), that could mean the need for more servers or hardware or routers in various locations.

Theoretically, if telecom companies started behaving this way when allowed to, small business people or bloggers could not longer have their own public domains, as we have become accustomed.

 They could use free services like Blogger or Automattic Wordpress, at the whim of being pulled at any time.  And I’m not sure that the business model for these free services is sustainable forever, especially in a Trump climate with new concerns about hidden national security threats (and with Trump’s dislike of “computers” as not “safe”).

Perhaps, though, shared hosting companies (like Bluehost, Godaddy) would take care of the hookup access, but would have to pass the costs along to website owners.  Setting up new domains (except for popular names people want) has been very cheap.

On the other hand, a Comcast or a Verizon has every “free market” reason to offer consumers access to everything lawful and accessible by normal Internet protocols, because consumer should expect it.
 
I don’t think that allowing a Netflix to have a “fast lane” (rather like an EZPass toll lane)  for consumer convenience (when consumers will pay more for premium speed service)  or to a faster streaming service that a telecom company owns, though should logically need to compromise consumer access to normal “small’ websites (like mine, for example).

Net neutrality rules could have some impact on other services that consumers want to use for protecting kids or for limiting liability from guest use (like OpenDNS or guest hotspots).

Update:  CNN has a story this evening by Seth Fiergerman.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Even if Trump kills net neutrality, telecomm companies already committed by private agreements


The latest on Donald Trump and net neutrality seems to be an article Jan. 2 in Wired by Klint Finley, “This is the year Donald Trump kills net neutrality”.

But private contracts would require Comcast to honor it until 2018 and Charter until 2020+.

The biggest practical issue, according to Wired, is the interest in telecomm companies in offered “zero rated” services to consumers (no data charges) to content providers who negotiate big deals with them.  In the video streaming area, this encourages big companies to bully small ones out of existence, and seems monopolistic.  But for non-video content, or for consumers whose video use is more moderate, it probably doesn’t matter.  Zero-rating can help consumers living in large family households with only one connection.  It probably means very little to singles.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Telecomm companies contemplate life without net neutrality again


Russell Brandon has a detailed article in the Verge explaining why Congress is likely to “go easy” (Giuoco Piano or maybe “pianissimo”, by analogy to chess) on upending the FCC’s legal authority for network neutrality.   There is mention that providers are likely to be allowed to offer more of the “basic” services to low-end consumers without data charges, but that wouldn’t affect things a lot.

Karl Bode has an article in TechDirt from Nov. 9 that vaguely lays out ISP preparations for Trump’s probable gradual gutting of net neutrality.   Bode seems to think that without regulation, telecom companies have little incentive to meet competition and will tend to get away with weak or bad customer service.  Tech dirt has another article noting that European and Asian governments tend to see zero-rating as a strategy to eliminate competition.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Libertarian sources remind us how FCC has regulated media in the past


The Cato Institute has provided a link to a paper from two George Mason University professors, Brnet Skorup and Christopher Koopman, “The FCC’s Transaction Reviews, the First Amendment, and the Rule of Law”, in the Winder 2016-2017 issue of “Regulation”, pdf here.

The paper points out that the FCC can compel major broadcasters (but not necessarily cable networks) to cover material with specific minority focus, and has done so.

On the other hand, network neutrality legislation might run against business model interests of communications providers and might make the promulgation of fake news more difficult to meet.