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. Bob Latta, who has re-introduced a bill
that would specifically block the FCC from reclassifying ISPs under Title II.
Latta, a top telecom campaign cash recipient
, attempted to push through the same legislation earlier this year. To hear Latta tell it, he's saving the Internet by preventing consumer protections that would keep incumbent ISPs from using a lack of competition to engage in predatory and discriminatory behavior:
“The FCC’s plans to reclassify broadband under Title II are misguided,” said Latta in announcing the bill's reintroduction. “Imposing monopoly-era telephone rules on a 21st Century industry that has thrived under the current light-touch regulatory framework will undoubtedly impede the economic growth and innovation that have resulted in the broadband marketplace absent government interference."
The largely GOP-driven push to pass laws that hinder the FCC's authority ahead of a neutrality vote is a particularly-steep uphill climb, since the President will likely veto any such measure. Several of the biggest ISPs are also pushing politicians to support something they're calling "Title X
" net neutrality rules whose sole function appear to be to pre-empt tougher, more meaningful rules.
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.
The United States' largest community fiber broadband effort is Utah's UTOPIA, which has been under assault by large incumbent ISPs like Qwest
(now CenturyLink) since before the first customer was even connected. UTOPIA has for much of a decade successfully fended off both these ISPs and a good deal of managerial incompetence on their own part, and is on the cusp of securing a significant cash boost
from an Australian investment firm.
For the second time in as many months, FCC boss Tom Wheeler has hinted that the FCC may take steps to pre-empt laws written and passed by broadband incumbent ISPs that prohibit towns and cities from building their own broadband -- even in cases where nobody else will.
In a blog post
, Wheeler uses the utility-provided broadband services by the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee (see our overwhelmingly-positive user reviews
of EFB Fiber) as an example of how many of these projects can work out, despite a decade of hang-wringing from the usual folks eager to defend the status quo.
Paying off national and state politicians along with lobbyists to get your way seems like a tradition within the internet/TV business. When AT&T didn’t want competition in Wisconsin
, they paid off politicians to dress up AT&T’s view as “fiscal responsibility." When Verizon wanted to sniff out the Canadian telecom market
, they hired a slew of lobbyists to see if they could the country to change their telecom rules.
If there's one thing I've probably griped about more than any other in the now thirteen-plus years I've written here, it's probably buried below the line fees. For years ISPs have buried the ordinary cost of doing business below the line in itemized fees. story continues..
Last fall the FAA lifted restrictions on in-flight electronics use during take offs and landing, and last January the FCC began rulemaking to lift the restrictions on in-flight phone calls. Wheeler and the FCC took a lot of heat for that move
(and is still fielding mostly negative comments
on the idea).
In April of last year, wireless carriers and the government announced
that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal is to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.
We recently noted how the UK's effort to force ISPs to filter porn by default wasn't working very well, with simple chrome proxy extensions
allowing porn hunters to easily bypass the filters. Worse perhaps is the fact that the filters aren't even really working, not only failing to filter a significant number of major porn sites, but accidentally filtering sexual education and rape support websites
Blogger Peter Hansteen has since put the filters through their paces, and found they're filtering a number of technology and civil liberty websites as well
...checking a semi-random collection of mainly fairly mainstream and some rather obscure tech URLs shows that far from focusing on its stated main objective, keeping innocent children away from online porn, the UK Internet filter shuts the UK's children out of a number of valuable IT resources, was well as several important civil liberties resources...if this is the true face of Parental Controls, I for one would take using controls like these as a sufficient indicator that the parents in question are in fact not qualified to do their parenting without proper supervision.
The filtered websites aren't exactly obscure, either, including Slashdot, Ars Technica, and the EFF. The broken filters come at the cost of higher rates for UK broadband users, as ISPs pass on the filter costs to users. The UK government continues to be rather tone deaf to the entire pile of dysfunction, suggesting they'd like to take things further by censoring websites that promote "extremist" views.
As noted last week
, the leaked draft of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement not only tries to foist wonky US copyright law upon the globe, it's pushing for numerous entertainment-industry initiatives like content filters, greater ISP liability, the disconnection of pirates from the Internet, and even language that could kill off Aereo.
It's all continually illustrative of how TPP negotiations have utterly excluded not only consumers, but all intelligent but discordant voices -- unless you're one of the 600 lobbyists invited to negotiations.
Wikileaks this week released a copy
of the latest version of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that has been under construction behind closed doors for years. As we've long noted
, the TPP attempts to take some of the worst aspects of U.S.
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