When the `C` block auction was issued back in 2007/08 there were handset free use rules attached. That is a buyer was free to purchase a set and use as they see fit so long as it did not interfere with network use of other users. Well those FCC requirements are going to be put to the test –
As wireless broadband achieves faster speeds and greater ubiquity, more and more Americans now use their mobile phones as wireless hotspots. This practice, known as tethering,
allows a user to connect multiple devices such as a laptop, digital camera, or GPS system to the Internet via a mobile phone’s broadband service. In essence, the consumer uses
the phone in the same way that he might rely on a wireless router at home tethering allows him to use one data connection with multiple devices. The practice is user-friendly. It boosts productivity. It encourages innovation in the market for wireless applications and devices. In particular, it provides a low-cost way for users to try new devices because they may use those devices without having to purchase a separate Internet connection.
Nevertheless, most major wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless,1 AT&T, and T-Mobile, limit access to third-party tethering applications. If users wish tether their phones, they
are forced to subscribe to the carriers’ own tethering service at rates of up to $30 per month. This practice restricts consumer choice and hinders innovation regardless of which carrier adopts such policies, but when Verizon Wireless employs these restrictions in connection with its LTE network, it also violates the Federal Communications Commission’s rules. In Verizon’s case, limiting access to tethering applications is not just a bad business practice and a bad policy choice; it also deliberately flouts the openness conditions imposed on Verizon’s LTE spectrum.
FreePress is a activist group. Their claim is that the tethering restrictions by requiring a uplift in your service plan is a violation of the `C` block rules. It will be an interesting outcome. I can see the stance both ways. However I would err that tethering is a unfettered `C` principle. Otherwise you open the door that the carriers will say anything that hangs off the primary phone is tethering.
By a fair chunk of the Congress. Both Republican and Democrat. Fact there were more Democrats signing on. —
FCC chair Julius Genachowski got an unpleasant surprise from what he must have previously considered a friendly Congress yesterday in response to his attempt to impose Net Neutrality through regulation rather than law. One hundred eleven Representatives — 74 of them Democrats — signed two separate letters telling Genachowski that the FCC should not consider proceeding with new regulations without explicit direction from Congress. Democrats worried about the impact on jobs, while Republicans called the regulatory thinking “19th-century”:
Now why is a simple set of letters of considerable interest to the Chair of the FCC? Because my Dear Reader, the FCC is one of those few agencies whose actions and budget are controlled directly by Congress and not the Executive. It was set up that for fear of single control of the airwaves under the Executive. So the Chair cannot merely ignore this, for lack of a better term, a rebuke.
This a good thing? In our eyes yes. It sets a speed bump into the Faustian Net Neutrality that has turned into anything but that. It puts a monkey wrench into an explosion into what would be a massive growth in regulation and bureaucrats in a time when we should be paring such activities down. It also sends a reminder to the Chair that they are not in control of the FCC but Congress. Take it for what it is worth, but the Statists have lost a round in this latest kabuki theater in the beltway.
Read the whole thing here.
Has Art Brodsky lost his grip? His posting over at Public Knowledge has to be one of the lamest lines of defense ever offered as a basis for over turning the Rule of Law. Kindness of Strangers be damned!
Mr Brodsky starts with using the Ides of March reversal technique –
Of course, the story isn’t all that simple, is it? Because the hidden story of Comcast’s glorious victory is that if Comcast were smart, it wouldn’t in the first place have brought the case, which challenged the FCC’s authority over the company’s high-speed Internet service. Some in the telecommunications industry, perhaps even huge companies with three letters in its name, urged (begged?) Comcast not to take the FCC’s ruling to court, because of the possibility that Comcast could actually win and, potentially, win big —which is what happened.
The reason that the Telcos like the arrangement Art is that it extended their LATA boundary relationships into the non regulated digital environment without so much as a legal skirmish. And what’s this dismissive alluding but not naming? Its AT&T, VZ, Sprint. Don’t be so damn coy.
But where is the standing on damages to the industry that Mr. Brodsky intones? He offers two — Depend on the Kindness of Strangers, and Waiting for Godot. In the former case he charges that depending on the big firms for telecommunications advancement has led us on a downward spiral in terms of global competitiveness. There is some truth to that but not the whole truth. For who is the hand maiden leading the spiraling down the drain but the FCC itself. Then in the latter case we have this –
We can’t depend on unelected bureaucrats to deal with topics as essential as broadband, because the result could be “excessive and burdensome regulation” on those humble, hard-working telephone and cable companies who unfairly change the rules without any reason at all.
And to you I say, NO we cannot trust bureaucrats with damn near anything including telecommunications. If for no other reason that the concept of the Lack of Sufficient Knowledge on a continuing basis.
But thru all of Mr. Brodsky’s missive is this gem –
… Practically speaking (even if there is a very slim legal opening), broadband is free from regulation – a nirvana that the telecoms industry might once upon a time have gratefully accepted as its due, but now looks upon it with some trepidation because now the door has swung wide open to a full-scale discussion of bringing Internet broadband access services back under reasonable regulation.
Two counts here. Brodsky’s ox has been gored by this ruling yet now the door has been swung open for reasonable regulation? By what variant of a pharmaceutical does he come to this conclusion? Its an election year fella. The chances of a Democratic Congress taking this up is slim to none. Plus if the tea leaves are right the Republican Congress next year won’t have the cycle time to touch it either. The second is under proper procedure, the FCC being a creature of Congress should make the necessary request for an expansion of its authority by the proper means, not some gerrymandered legal trick with a wink and a nod. But Mr. Brodsky the FCC DOES NOT possess the authority to overstate its intended alloted powers. Or do I assume you are willing to abrogate the rule of law to achieve your statist aims under the color of consumer protection. How Stalinist.
That is what a 3 judge panel of the first District Court of Appeals just did in the case of Comast vs FCC. The Panel offered the ruling as memorandum, not binding, but telegraphing the Courts observations and if affirmed by the full bench sets the FCC on its ear. –
Federal appeals court gave notice Friday it likely would reject the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to sanction Comcast for throttling peer-to-peer applications.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit suggested as much during oral arguments with the FCC and Comcast. The Philadelphia-based cable concern is appealing the agency’s 2008 decision ordering it to stop hampering the peer-to-peer service BitTorrent as a traffic-management practice.
The order was in response to complaints Comcast was sending fake signals to users of BitTorrent, a bandwidth-heavy protocol often used to pirate copyright content.
“You have yet to identify a specific statute,” Judge Raymond Randolph told an FCC lawyer regarding the legal authority to ding Comcast.
To be sure, Friday’s reaction to the appellate court hearing made it increasingly clear the Obama administration’s FCC has been preparing for a defeat concerning net neutrality (.pdf), one of the largest issues surrounding internet freedom.
The upshot of this memo? —
* Net Neutrality as it has been proposed since Chairman Martin’s tenure may not survive in its current form if it survives at all.
* That the FCC may not even have the authority to regulate in this area as no controlling regulatory clause has been found by the court.
* That the 30% rule fostered by the FCC on the cable industry is willful and capricious. The panel summarily vacated that baseline without standing in current rule making by the FCC itself.
* Has political implications beyond the scope of this blog.
In many ways we are right back to 2004 in regards to carriers regard to traffic management, FCC’s role in this issue and the very nature of Net Neutrality.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, our CongressCritters are at it again. This time placing speech on the Internet at risk. Their move this time is The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act You can’t have a law without a victim these days you know –
Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both….
["Communication"] means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; …
["Electronic means"] means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.
This is crazy. It would be illegal to bully someone online but if you did it face to face at school that would be ok? That seems to be the outcome. What if I write a political blog that tries to coerce a Congressman to vote the way I want? Can I be sent to Federal Prison for that?
Read more here.
DirecTV is taking a baby step towards offering NFL programming via a broadband connection. Of course this puts them squarely at odds with most broadband providers. This could be the beginning of a war between ISP”s and content providers. Increasingly, content providers are discovering an giant avenue for growth outside o pay TV’s walled garden. Broadband providers, however, operate these same walled gardens as a major profit center.
The new deal between DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and the NFL for the NFL Sunday Ticket package highlights some interesting implications for network neutrality. Starting in 2012, the new deal allows DirecTV to market a broadband version of the package to non-DirecTV customers who can’t access their satellite signal for whatever reason. (As a side note: How in the world will that be enforced?) Conceivably, broadband customers can then purchase the package and have it delivered via the Internet, rather than satellite.
So here’s the rub, if I’m a telco TV (or cable) provider who competes with DirecTV, why should I be forced to carry their revenue-generating programming package via broadband? A commenter on my Telecompetitor blog compared this to CBS offering NBC programming on CBS for free, with the caveat “It’ll never happen.” OK, not an apples-to-apples comparison, but you get the point. (Light Reading)
Whether broadband providers like it or not, a la carte programming is coming via TVoIP. The smartest of them (if there are any) will recognize this and get into the game. New laws, regulations and more are irrelevant, content wants to be free to be shown with ads or sold to anyone anywhere.
While I’m on the subject of rules and regs. There’s only one way to insure net neutrality in a duopoly market. That is to require broadband providers to spin off any content businesses. Until that happens equal access for all content providers will never happen.