The FCC's latest network neutrality proposal has seen no shortage of critics given it effectively legitimizes the sort of potentially anti-competitive "pay to play" or "fast lane" proposals companies like AT&T have lusted after for years. Yet speaking at the US Africa Leaders Summit in DC recently, Obama positively gushed
over the notion of network neutrality, insisting he was an avid supporter of net neutrality so that the "next Google or Facebook can succeed:"
Net neutrality in the United States -- one of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers. That's the big controversy here.
You have big, wealthy media companies who might be willing to pay more and also charge more for spectrum, more bandwidth on the Internet so they can stream movies faster.
I personally, the position of my administration, as well as a lot of the companies here, is that you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users.
You want to leave it open so the next Google and the next Facebook can succeed...
Yet the Administration's own FCC is working on rules that so far do the exact opposite -- greenlighting "creative" pricing efforts that would give some content companies a leg up. Worse, perhaps, the FCC's rules (so far) don't cover wireless networks, don't seriously address usage caps, and will exclude the current fights over interconnection -- all modern fronts on the current network neutrality debate.
That's before you even mention the fact that network neutrality violations couldn't happen in a competitive broadband marketplace, yet the FCC (regardless of the political party that controls it at the time) has chosen time and time again to ignore sector competitive problems
because they don't want to upset powerful campaign contributors.
Less than a year ago, every technology news outlet and blog was busy proclaiming that Intel's planned subscription broadband live TV service was going to revolutionize the TV industry
. Intel (and by proxy bloggers buying into their hype) was bizarrely confident (mostly via anonymous press leaks
) that this
service would succeed where many before it failed, and would surely launch any day now.
A new study by NetNames commissioned by Comcast NBC Universal released this week
tries to get a handle on the global scope of online piracy. According to the study, some 432 million people engaged in copyright infringement during January of this year in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific alone.
The entertainment industry and ISP joint "Copyright Alert System" (aka "six strikes) has had absolutely no impact on piracy statistics, judging from a preliminary look at popular BitTorrent website traffic levels. The six strikes program was launched back in February
with the cooperation of major ISPs including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
Yesterday the Obama administration met with numerous companies involved in the government's domestic spy program
(including the CEOs of Apple and AT&T), as well as privacy and consumer advocacy groups to discuss the government's ever-blossoming surveillance scandal. Today the administration unveiled the results of those talks, and stated they'll take four steps in an effort to appease critics:
• Obama claimed he'll work with Congress to reform Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
As noted earlier this week
, Google is taking a lot of heat for fine print in the Google Fiber terms of service that technically prohibits servers. While some of the criticism is valid in that Google holds itself up to be different (though anyone who listens to corporations, or watched Google waffle on their open access promises
really should probably know better), the frontal assault on the company has been somewhat overblown
in that every
ISP has some variety of this language buried in their TOS, and it's incredibly rarely enforced.
Following on the heels of a similar offering by Time Warner Cable
, Comcast has launched a new trial in Fresno that involves usage caps as low as 5GB a month on the company's Economy Plus broadband tier. The company's website
list the new plan as a "flexible data option," and as with Time Warner Cable's efforts -- users are promised a $5 discount off of their monthly bill if they're willing to have their broadband line capped at a paltry 5 gigabytes per month.
From the "I'm not quite sure what you were expecting" department, NSA Director Keith Alexander didn't receive many hugs at this week's Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. DefCon organizers had warned government employees
to steer clear from their
conference this year, given the increasingly sour mood over NSA's repeated lying before Congress (and everywhere else) and the Snowden leaks.
*There has been a concerted push recently by the broadband industry to try and insist that the United States broadband market is secretly flawless, awesome and highly competitive, despite the fact that absolutely every independent source of broadband data (from Akamai
and the FCC
to the OECD
and OOkla's Net Index
) suggests we're absolutely and utterly mediocre at every metric that counts. That's not to say we're not improving in some very select regions
(thanks to things like Google Fiber, Verizon FiOS and DOCSIS 3.0), but overall we're quite indisputably, utterly average when it comes to broadband worldwide.
Long after this week's surveillance firestorm erupted, the White House has finally seen fit to grace the public with some justifications for their wholesale secret spying on pretty much everyone, everywhere, all the time. In a speech (full video here
), Obama effectively stated that spying on such a ridiculous scale is a "critical" tool in the country's arsenal, and that both
of the programs
exposed in more detail this week were approved by Congress, and therefore perfectly ok.
While there has been some twitching from the corpse of LightSquared in DC, it has been fairly clear to everyone that the company has been dead for quite some time
. Now insiders tell Bloomberg
that Charlie Ergen made a $2 billion "stalking horse" bid to acquire LightSquared's assets and spectrum. One problem with such a deal -- the FCC still hasn't given their approval for use of the interference-prone spectrum, the core reason that LightSquared died in the first place. LightSquared has until May 31 to accept the bid. Dish has slowly been engaged in a series of spectrum acquisition deals to aid the company's potential launch of their own LTE network.
For a company whose U-Verse fiber to the node broadband service has consistently under-performed in the battle against cable, AT&T executives were very confident in future U-Verse speed claims while speaking at their developer conference this week at CES. AT&T recently announced that they'd be expanding their U-Verse footprint from 24.5 million homes to 33 million, though the company used some fuzzy math to make the expansion seem much larger than it was
FCC boss Julius Genachowski has been busy lately paying lip service to Silicon Valley, most recently telling a bunch of Silicon Valley conference attendees that caps were something we should be "concerned" about
, after telling cable companies just a few months earlier he thought caps and overages are nifty and innovative
. Speaking again to Silicon Valley folks yesterday at a speech
at Vox Media headquarters, Genachowski hashed out his muddy position a little further, again insisting he was "concerned" about caps -- sort of -- maybe:
(Growing usage) presents challenges for broadband providers in managing the growing loads on their networks while earning returns to drive capital investment in network upgrades and expansion.
Scott Cleland is a policy consultant paid by incumbent ISPs to sell his client's unfiltered Kool-Aid to reporters and politicians, and is frequently called to Washington as an "objective" industry analyst, despite his obvious role as little more than a paid parrot. You might recall that when we last saw Scott Cleland, he was busily beating up on Google for not investing in broadband infrastructure
, despite billions spent on global fiber runs and storage capacity.
With LightSquared all but dead
after being denied a necessary FCC spectrum condition waiver, LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja recently got out
while the getting was good -- and Sprint is poised to untangle itself from the mess that is LightSquared. Sprint, who had struck a deal to use some of LightSquared's spectrum, had given the company two deal extensions to deal with their regulatory headaches caused by GPS interference. With LightSquared being unable to convince regulators they had an adequate plan to deal with that interference, Sprint now plans to officially kill the deal next week
, according to anonymous sources.
Other countries have long been uncomfortable with the U.S. and ICANN's control over the Internet, and have consistently proposed new UN-based governance approaches
designed to increase international input into Internet policy decisions.
Anybody who warns of an unavoidable capacity crisis on wireline or wireless networks is lying in order to sell you something. That may be a blunt assessment to some, but it's the only conclusion you can draw as we see time and time again that claims about a looming network apocalypse (remember the Exaflood
?) violently overestimate future traffic loads and underestimate the ingenuity of modern network engineers.
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