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While net neutrality opponents in Congress have spent weeks shaming the FCC for standing up to ISPs
, and the ISPs themselves have launched new lawsuits to kill the rules entirely
, there's growing concern that the rules may have too many truck-sized loopholes for ISPs to skip through. Despite being portrayed breathlessly as "heavy-handed regulation of the Internet," the actual rules don't apply most of the heaviest aspects of Title II onto broadband providers. Frankly, it's more like "title II lite."
Similarly, while net neutrality rules in Canada, Slovenia, The Netherlands and Chile outright ban "zero rated" apps (letting some services not count against caps), the FCC has given every indication they have no problem with the practice. For example AT&T's Sponsored Data efforts -- which charge companies a fee to bypass user caps -- have seen criticism
for immediately making things harder on small companies.
Yet the FCC hasn't batted an eyelash at the concept.
Similarly there's a lot of ambiguity in the way the rules are worded that could easily lead to ISP abuse
. For example law professor Susan Crawford argues that the ambiguous definition of "specialized services" allows too much wiggle room for ISPs:
"The way the FCC is defining [broadband Internet access service], it's going to be easy to evade the operation of these rules," said Harvard University scholar Susan Crawford. "Millions of Americans are paying attention to the wrong sets of questions." Crawford and others fret that an Internet provider could claim that its own video streaming service — say, a rival to Netflix — was a specialized service, and then accelerate its traffic at Netflix's expense.
Earlier this year we noted how Portland was changing its tax code
and a number of city ordinances in order to lure Google Fiber to the city. So far that seems to be working, with Portland on deck to be a potential launch market sometime later this year
Back in February you'll recall that the FCC voted 3-2
to dismantle portions of state broadband laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that restricted towns and cities from deciding their own broadband policies for themselves. The laws are usually written by the broadband industry
with one goal: protect incumbent ISP revenues from competition -- whatever form that competition takes.
A broadband industry trade group today filed suit in an attempt to overturn the FCC's new net neutrality rules
. US Telecom, which represents AT&T, Verizon and other ISPs, filed a lawsuit in the U.S.
As we noted yesterday
, copyright troll Voltage Pictures was forced by a Canadian court to pay TekSavvy $21,500 for legal and other costs related to handing over the identities of 2,300 broadband customers. The goal is to make the sort of "settlement-o-matic" revenue streams too expensive for copyright trolls.
Yesterday Canadian regulators the CRTC issued an interesting ruling
: the agency declared that cable operators in the country must now start unbundling cable channels. According to the CRTC, operators like Rogers, Shaw and Bell must offer a "skinny bundle" of channels for at least $25 a month.
The law firm Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver (aka the U.S. Copyright Group) has perfected the "copyright-o-matic
" approach to P2P lawsuits, sending out letters en masse to users they've identified as having traded copyrighted files, threatening to sue those users unless they settle for the rock-bottom initial price tag of $1,500.
Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn, a major recipient
of Comcast, AT&T and Verizon campaign contributions, has pushed forth two bills that attack the FCC's recent decisions on municipal broadband
and net neutrality
. In the case of the former, the FCC voted to pre-empt protectionist state laws (often written by ISPs) that prevented towns and cities from improving or expanding their own broadband infrastructure (even if it's with private help).
The mega-ISPs have shared their thoughts on today's FCC net neutrality ruling, and you'll be shocked and surprised to learn that they don't much like it. AT&T, for example, insisted in a blog post
that the FCC's since-overturned 2010 net neutrality rules (which did little and didn't cover wireless) were good enough, and that the unprecedented public-supported effort to pass tougher rules was a horrible example of "rigidity" and a failure on the part of new FCC boss Tom Wheeler:
Every chairman in my memory, including the current one, has faced political stampedes of one sort or another.
You might recall that back in 2013, some DSLReports.com regulars, including University of Manitoba graduate student Ben Klass ( bklass
), filed a complaint against Bell
in Canada. Basically, they were annoyed by the fact that Bell's $5 a month Bell Mobile TV service -- which provides 10 hours of live or recorded TV show access each month -- didn't count against user usage caps, while competing services unfairly did.
To try and prevent the FCC from crafting tough Title-II based net neutrality rules, loyal ISP politicians in Congress have promised a slew of bills aimed at eroding FCC authority ahead of the FCC's February 26 vote on new rules. One of the first out of the gate is courtesy of Rep. story continues..
Your broadband bill will be free of additional taxes until at least October of 2015. The Internet Tax Freedom Act, which was passed in 1998 and has been extended three times since, was scheduled to expire this week. Your wallet was saved this latest go-round courtesy of an extension of the restriction buried in a soon-to-be-passed 1,603-page government funding bill
. Senate Finance Committee chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) co-wrote the original bill, and says he'll push to make the restriction permanent next year.
Over the last thirty years or so AT&T has made it very clear that it absolutely loathes government regulation -- unless that regulation is written by them to protect their duopoly power. Case in point is the city of Chanute, Kansas, which is trying to offer its residents 1 Gbps connections for $40 per month, after years of getting tired of the local AT&T and CableOne duopoly. story continues..
The Electronic Freedom Foundation last week filed a petition with the Librarian of Congress and the Copyright Office to extend and expand six different exemptions to the DMCA, covering everything from the right to bypass car DRM -- to the right to continue tinkering with games no longer supported by the developers. In a blog post
the EFF notes the group also urged the Librarian of Congress “to extend and expand the exemption that allows you to ‘jailbreak’ your phone from those restrictions, without running afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).”
In January of last year unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal
after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list.
Eager to expand government coffers, Hungarian politicians have pushed forward a new draft bill to be debated in 2015 that would tax Internet service providers for traffic carried. A report in Reuters
indicates that the upcoming proposal sets forth a tax of 150 forints (60 US cents) per gigabyte of data traffic, though the report also notes the laws would allow companies to offset corporate income tax against the new levy.
The news was immediately received poorly, with possible protests planned for Sunday. One firm estimates Hungary's annual traffic to be 1.15 billion gigabytes on fixed line networks and 18 million gigabytes via wireless, which would generate around 175 billion forints (around $725 million) for the Hungarian government annually.
Comcast last night filed their reply comments to the FCC as the agency considers approving the company's $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The filing is filled with the sort of arguments we've seen countless times already
over the past few months, including Comcast's repeated claim that they face so much competition on every front
there's simply no way they'd ever engage in anti-competitive behavior.
Netflix has thrown their support behind cities eager to build their own broadband without interference from incumbent ISPs and lobbyists. In a filing with the FCC
, Netflix argues that the FCC can and should over-rule states like Tennessee, North Carolina and elsewhere, which have allowed ISPs to literally write the state telecom laws prohibiting towns and cities from improving their own broadband networks -- even in cases where nobody else will.
As we noted last week
, two different cities with their own broadband networks (Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, Tennessee) have formally asked the FCC to declare that laws in their states hindering community broadband aren't enforceable, giving FCC boss Tom Wheeler the perfect opportunity to back up claims that he'd take action. Such bills are written and lobbied for by companies like Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, and often restrict local citizen rights to determine for themselves what the best course of action for their community is.
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