Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Tech companies plan "Day of Action" on Net Neutrality on July 12

ATT recently (May 31) published a blog post by Hank Hultquist, Chairman of “Federal Regulatory” offering the viewpoint that Obama’s net neutrality rules (FCC’s common carrier concept) are predicated on the idea that an ISP advertises itself as a “neutral conduit”, link here.

That is, there is nothing inherently illegal even now for a small ISP to deliver only carefully curated websites to, say, a religious consumer subset that wants only a limited Internet exposure.
That’s true, this wouldn’t matter as long as the major companies maintain their public posture as “public accommodations”, so to speak.

And none of the major ISP’s have indicated any interest in censoring or blocking content.  They might have issues with, say, porn sites that use enormous bandwidth.

And today, Wednesday June 7, 2017, p. A14 of the Washington Post carries a story by Brian Fung, “Web companies plan July ‘day of action’ in push to protect net neutrality”, link here. The companies involved are Amazon, Reddit, Mozilla and Kickstarter, on Wednesday July 12, 2017.  Fung reminds us of a similar day in January 2012 to protest SOPA when Wikipedia went dark.  Fung still rehearses the idea that “neutral”  ISP’s could throttle content they don’t like.  I’m still getting lots of emails asking me to “join in” a hyped petition.  The last day for comments is July 17, and I will probably submit one. Fung reiterates, however, that ISP’s still say they are committed to neutrality in practice.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

FCC votes to take comments on rolling back net neutrality, among "Chicken Little" reports

Well, the comment period on the rollback of Network Neutrality has started, by a 2-1 vote today, overlooked by the media given all of Trump’s antics.  Arstechnica, normally level headed, seems to think that the sky is falling, as in “Chicken Little”

I think I may well make a formal comment during the open period, before July 17.

Arst Technica links to a list of some ISP violations over the years.  In one case, a labor union’s site was reportedly blocked.  Comcast apparently tried to interfere with user P2P, which is odd because Comcast doesn’t offer OpenDNS (I think Verizon does), which is how a host (like for Airbnb) could try to block anyone using his router from doing most possible illegal downloading for which the host could be liable.

This topic needs our continued attention to see what ISP’s really say they want to do.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Electronic Frontier Foundation's "DearFCC campaign": hints that small businesses could be completely cut off? Credible at all?

For what it’s worth, I’ll share Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “DearFCCcampaign.  EFF is one of the organizations I support regularly.

I’m not confident that the childish tone of the suggested letter is effective, and I’m concerned about the hysterical tone of some of the hints – that big ISP’s will really block small websites that don’t pay them off (again, the idea of saying “what the Internet means to me”).  I don’t know if that’s a credible threat, and in any case Pai says he has pledges that carriers will not discriminate outside of setting up fast lanes in very special circumstances that really warrant it.  A text blog doesn’t need a fast lane;  a movie streaming site would.  (Usually Blogger content loads very quickly now; Wordpress domains are a little slower, sometimes. But is that because of net neutrality?  Blogger was pretty fast even in 2008.  So is my legacy DADT site.)

I’ll have to look further into how ISP’s really intend to behave.  I think they would deny these ideas right now.
One remote idea is that “free” services like Blogger and Wordpress subdomains would have better access than paid-for domains.  Maybe services like BlueHost would have to arrange access to the biggies in a future without net neutrality.   But will these free services last forever?  Do they really make money for their owners? Needs serious attention.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

USA Today questions Pai's claims that network neutrality stifles rural broadband investment

Mike Snider had an article in USA Today May 5 in which he reports that Trump’s FCC Chairman Aji Pai still insists that Obama’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules have interfered with broadband investment in rural areas or certain low income neightborhoods.  Indeed, on one day trip in the fall of 2015 I saw lots of road signs in a rural area in the Virginia Blue Ridge offering broadband.

The article goes on to criticize Pai’s claims, noting in particular that ATT’s acquisitions have skewed the results.  And Pai has taken other actions which might have impeded some rural access.

But it is reasonable to think that neutrality rules could interfere with new hardware in some cases.
The video embedded with the article makes a disturbing speculation, that without net neutrality an ISP would slow down a “basement blog” in favor of Facebook.  But of course, the basement blog might require relatively few resources (Wordpress can require more), where as an HD video streaming service legitimately could “need” more bandwidth, which could be paid for.

It’s interesting for me to remember that in the early days my own legacy sites always loaded very fast because they were straightline HTML and used few resources.

For example, this long chapter from my first DADT book (48000 words) on an old legacy site loads in less than one second on Xfinity right now.  You can try it at home.  But it took three seconds on my iPhone 6.  It loaded fast before net neutrality, even in the early days of high speed.

Monday, May 01, 2017

New York Times questions Ajit Pai's plans for voluntary compliance in a strong editorial

Let’s make note of the New York Times editorial Sunday, “The F.C.C. Invokes Internet Freedom While Trying to Kill It”.

The editorial points out that Pai’s “voluntary” compliance from telecom companies could be “enforced” by fines or litigation, but sounds facetious.  It also points out that ATT, Comcast, and Verizon are already treating the content of companies they own more favorably than those of competitors of non-affiliated providers.  That may refer to zero-rating, allowing subscribers free or preferred use of subsidiaries (as in the example involving DirectTV).

One could imagine a world where shared hosting companies have to negotiate with all the major telecom companies to give their clients faster speeds (or someday, access at all).

Update: May 3

Electronic Frontier Foundation also has a similar reaction by Corynne McSherry along with a petition, here.   That refers to an article on the Verge ("nonsense"?) that lays out the ways ISP's could play cat and mouse.  By the way, I've talked with Gigi Sohn before, back in the days of "don't ask don't tell".

Thursday, April 27, 2017

New FCC chairman Pai announces plans to dismantle Obama's net neutrality

Timothy B. Lee has an article on Vox describing how new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to deconstruct FCC regulation of the Internet (to borrow a verb from my own DADT-1 book), that is, roll back Obama’s Network Neutrality regulations and the classification of telecom companies as utilities.  The Vox story is here.

Lee notes that the telecom companies have been on good behavior since 2008, because they expected regulation.

Since ISP’s sometimes own content companies, there is fear that they could manipulate traffic to shut out competition. This fear is reflect in past regulation of broadcast TV, which limited the number of television stations a network could own (to 5).

Still, Internet service providers today say they have no plans to throttle smaller companies, but they want very larger content providers like Netflix to be able to pay for special hardware farms (like around Charlotte or around Ashburn VA) or routers to carry their traffic more efficiently.  Pai claims that regulations against pay for fast lanes (like toll lanes on Interstates) prey on a phantom problem that does not exist, and regulations could prevent new Internet technologies from coming on line (from entrepreneurs) or even hamper grid resilience.

Android Headlines had another account here. Here is the text of his remarks April 26 (PDF)   The FCC votes on these May 18 and then there is a comment period to follow.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump's FCC chairman seems to press for "voluntary" compliance with no-throttle expectations from telecom companies

Silicon valley companies that provide social networking or publication services are still pressuring the FCC to preserve network neutrality rules established during the Obama administration, according to a story on p. A14 of the Washington Post today.

Trump’s FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been contacting telecom providers (the natural antagonists of service companies) to get “voluntary promises” not to throttle or block sites, in exchange for dispensing with formal rules. The intention is to provide telecom companies with incentive to improve broadband in rural areas or for specific kinds of customers where there is real economic justification.
But a story by John D. McKinnon in the Wall Street Journal on the Technology Page, B4 today (good reading when at a Starbucks) says “Web firms defend net neutrality as GOP takes aim”.  This story refers to Mr. Pai’s apparent intention to “preserve basic elements of net neutrality, such as no blocking or throttling” and an intention to turn over supervision to the Federal Trade Commission (as part of Trump’s federal government streamlining).s