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FCC Afraid To Tackle Open Access
Broadband plan architect believes there's 'no appetite' for it. Wait, what?
by Karl Bode 01:13PM Tuesday Mar 02 2010
FCC Broadband planner Blair Levin this week sat down with Ars Technica's Matthew Lasar in San Francisco to answer a few questions about the looming broadband plan. Levin talks about a number of things, including the need for additional spectrum, but unlike the glimpses we've seen of the plan itself -- Levin does touch on the sector's limited competition -- right before he makes it pretty clear the FCC's not going to do a damn thing about it. Despite a recent study commissioned by the FCC showing that open access policies result in more competition, lower prices and better service, Levin spends most of the interview shooting down the idea, starting with an argument that doesn't really make sense:
quote:
There is a higher percentage of broadband subscribers in the consumer market receiving it off of cable than anywhere else in the world . . . It also means that some of the policy proposals that may work in countries that have a single, national, wireline telco, don't really work when you have the largest provider of broadband not being a national telco but rather regional cable providers who are competing against, say, a telco.
I would say that there isn't going to be a lot of appetite for that (open access policies).
-FCC broadband plan architect Blair Levin
Except whether it's a telco or a cable operator shouldn't really matter, and there's no logic in claiming open access wouldn't work over cable. Time Warner Cable for instance, as a condition of Time Warner's merger with AOL, offered Earthlink service over their lines in a number of markets. Levin continues by arguing that the FCC won't pursue open access policies because the agency's essentially afraid of having to fight the nation's biggest carriers in court:
quote:
You also have a different relationship between the regulators and the industry. In those countries, when a regulator says to do something, what happens is that within a very reasonable, short timeframe, those things are done. What happens in the United States is that, when a regulator says something-I'm not complaining about it; I'm just pointing out reality-it's challenged in the courts and you have a time lag. So that, I think, is an important consideration.
The lowest prices and highest speeds are almost always offered by firms in markets where, in addition to an incumbent telephone company and a cable company, there are also competitors who entered the market, and built their presence, through use of open access facilities.
-FCC study
So Levin is basically admitting defeat at the hands of the biggest operators in court before even trying anything, something AT&T, Verizon and Comcast lawyers surely appreciate. Levin, who was the architect of the 1996 Communications Act before spending more than a decade in the financial and investment sector, goes on to suggest that open access policies that might have worked then simply won't work now -- though he doesn't really explain why:
quote:
And the third thing is, you have to look at where you are, at a particular point in time. One can argue whether the 2003 decision to eliminate line sharing was the right one. But, whether that decision was right or wrong, it was, if I recall correctly, reversing a 1999 decision. The 1999 decision was premised on a very different market structure and a very different market opportunity than what you have in the year 2010.
So you've got an FCC-commissioned Harvard study that showed that open access works and suggested the U.S. should pursue such policies if it wants more competition, better services and lower prices. Except the person in charge of the nation's broadband plan thinks open access would be impossible to implement because U.S. regulators are weak, and the FCC would get their tail kicked in the courts.

It sounds like Levin's essentially unwilling to do what's required because -- it's hard and messy. But it sounds like Levin's also thinking politically, worrying that Genachowski's term could be consumed by court battles should the agency actually take a stand. If that's the case, maybe Levin should get better lawyers. Or perhaps get out of the way for more ambitious planners who aren't afraid to upset the incumbent duopoly providers, because any plan worth its salt should do just that.

Levin tries to sell Ars on the idea there "isn't going to be a lot of appetite" for such an open access strategy. We can only assume he means among incumbent carriers or the FCC legal team, given there has been endless consumer complaints about limited broadband competition and high prices. Maybe he could ask the dozens of cities that are lining up and even changing their city names to get a shot at open-access-based Google fiber what they think. In what universe exactly isn't there an appetite for open access and improved competition? Ok, other than in Comcast Town.

So with open access buried before being seriously tried, what does Levin suggest as an alternative method of fostering competition? He doesn't. He does go on to criticize people who've noted the plan doesn't address some key problems in the sector, like competition. We're told by several analysts that he does occasionally read Broadband Reports, so maybe he's talking about us here, and maybe he isn't. But for the second time, Levin gets annoyed with critics of the agency's apparently weak-kneed plan:
quote:
As we look at this [the National Broadband Plan], a lot of people are focusing on one thing-like if you don't do X, the plan is a failure or if you don't do Y, the plan is a failure. As an analytic matter, I think that's absolutely wrong. I think we need to do many things, and we need activity in many areas.
The problem is, the FCC seems to be focusing on everything under the sun so the plan looks like a political success, while the reality is they're failing at some core priorities. The plan, after countless feel good roundtables, tries to address everything from distracted driving to small business tech education, while doing nothing to address the monopoly or duopoly hold carriers have in countless U.S. markets. According to the FCC's own commissioned data, a primary solution could be open access. Yet Levin's done the carriers' jobs for them -- and gutted any effort to impose such changes before they've even begun.

So, what's the FCC's plan to foster competition? We'll know for sure when the plan's unveiled in fifteen days, but for now -- they don't appear to have one.

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Steve B
Premium
join:2004-08-02
Auburn, WA

3 edits

1 recommendation

Hey Blair Levin....!

F*ck You! Lazy, Wimp A$$ MoFo

People like that just hit my hot button and piss me of royally.

Now we got to wait for the incessant company defenders of this site to clean the brown off their noses to defend the companies.

Ericthorn
It only hurts when I laugh
Premium
join:2001-08-10
Paragould, AR

Re: Hey Blair Levin....!

There is no rational defense for monopolistic practices, but I too enjoy the humor of their rationales.

Steve B
Premium
join:2004-08-02
Auburn, WA

Re: Hey Blair Levin....!

True....you have to wonder what wires got crossed upstairs.
Expand your moderator at work

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness

1 recommendation

Re: Hey Blair Levin....!

Well he right to a point. If the FCC did "force" open access the ISPs would just take it to court were it would take YEARS to even be decided and then most likely NOT in the favor of open access. Seriously if the FCC said TODAY all ISPs must have open access eveyone here would be saying "Yeah I can't wait" except you'd have to. At least 10 years. I'm 100% sure that's not what everyone's expectations are. To have to wait until 2020 for open access. Then everyone will be pissy for the next 10 years. I'd rather have the FCC use it's time and resources on things it can actually accomplish than beating dead horses.

Steve B
Premium
join:2004-08-02
Auburn, WA

Re: Hey Blair Levin....!

Well, lately, the FCC hasn't been doing much except turning a blind eye to anti-competitive behaviors. In that case, I still would want to them to fight. What is the point of even having them if they will not do anything?....setting aside the other stuff like them handling spectrum, etc.

bent
and Inga
Premium
join:2004-10-04
Loveland, CO
Like every other regulatory environment in this country, the foxes are watching the chicken coop.
--
Greedy Old Pigs v. The Donkey Show

Jim Kirk
Premium
join:2005-12-09
Westerville, OH
said by Steve B:

F*ck You! Lazy, Wimp A$$ MoFo

People like that just hit my hot button and piss me of royally.

Now we got to wait for the incessant company defenders of this site to clean the brown off their noses to defend the companies.
LOL. I told you so.

Tron4Net

join:2010-01-14
Corrales, NM
Same here! YOUR A REAL PIECE OF SH!T BLAIR LEVIN!!! YOU CO*K SUCKER MOFO!!! I HOPE SOMEONE SLAPS YOU WITH A PIECE OF PORK!!
nasadude

join:2001-10-05
Rockville, MD

nothing will happen

regulatory capture and corporate-owned government will prevent any meaningful changes.

the big will get bigger and prices will increase like clockwork.

eventually, the U.S. will be a 2nd tier (if not already) broadband country.
Angrychair

join:2000-09-20
Jacksonville, FL

Re: nothing will happen

Don't kidd yourself, nasadude, the U.S. has been second rate in just about everything except average weight of the population for quite a while now.

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:44

1 edit

Re: nothing will happen

Aww, chin up! We're high up there on infant mortality rate!

Shack

join:2002-01-17
Bloomington, IN

Re: nothing will happen

lol
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3
Yup! The US is second rate in just about everything we are...

We're second rate for disaster recovery, we're second rate for overall income, we're second rate at space exploration, we're second rate at military.. we're not "second rate" at just about everything... certainly not at political corruption...

But, try to not exaggerate so much.. The US is not second rate at just about everything.. its a constant back and forth game.. just a few years ago, MANY countries had, and still do have, second rate internet.

Camaro
Question everything
Premium
join:2008-04-05
Westfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Wireless..
·Comcast

Re: nothing will happen

You are right about everything except the military,even though most of the juicy spending is classified,i read a story a while back about if our great government for 1 day diverted what they spend on the military to things like health care, employment it would basically fix it overnight for the amount of money that is spent to run our wars for 24 hours,just food for thought.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

Re: nothing will happen

Ummm.. I was being a smart ass in my comment.. I don't mean that we're second rate in ANY of those things...

DaveDude
No Fear

join:1999-09-01
New Jersey
kudos:1

1 edit
If we only had tort-reform and interstate sales of insurance. We wouldnt have those problems.
patcat88

join:2002-04-05
Jamaica, NY
kudos:1

Re: nothing will happen

And who would decide whose rules apply to interstate sales of insurance? The Federal Insurance Commission made up of insurance industry retirees appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate?

DaveDude
No Fear

join:1999-09-01
New Jersey
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: nothing will happen

said by patcat88:

And who would decide whose rules apply to interstate sales of insurance? The Federal Insurance Commission made up of insurance industry retirees appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate?
The states decide just as they do now, but sales are permitted. Each state would make a minimum criteria for insurance. This is already done for car insurance.
--
They Live... We Sleep...

“Spreading the wealth around” never results in a better outcome for people. It always results in destruction.

patcat88

join:2002-04-05
Jamaica, NY
kudos:1

Re: nothing will happen

said by DaveDude:

The states decide just as they do now, but sales are permitted. Each state would make a minimum criteria for insurance. This is already done for car insurance.
Then there would be a race to the bottom for every insurance company to register only in the most liberal, most profitable state. Like Nevada and Delaware for corporations, and Utah for banks.

Bill Dollar

join:2009-02-20
New York, NY

Levin's Point about U.S. Cable Market being unique is Bogus

Levin tries to say open access policies won't work here, because we have cable modem, implying they only work in countries that are teleco monopolies.

But this is bogus. Leading countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, South Korea, the U.K. and many others have appreciable cable modem adoption.

The bottom line is, Levin, and this FCC are just scared to death of the wrath of the incumbent lobby.

BBBanditRuR
Dingbits

join:2009-06-02
Parachute, CO

Re: Levin's Point about U.S. Cable Market being unique is Bogus

Yep, reading the article I'm quickly slapped awake from my dream that the FCC actually has authority to make/enforce policy. I'm glad this isn't the case.
patcat88

join:2002-04-05
Jamaica, NY
kudos:1

2 recommendations

said by Bill Dollar:

Levin tries to say open access policies won't work here, because we have cable modem, implying they only work in countries that are teleco monopolies.

But this is bogus. Leading countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, South Korea, the U.K. and many others have appreciable cable modem adoption.
How do you plan to unbundle DOCSIS service? Whose caps apply when Pirate McTorrent brings the node to 3G speeds? Will CLECs cry net neutrality because of caps? Who is responsible for paying for node splitting? What if a MSO won't split a node, can the CLEC sue the MSO for brand harm? Does each CLEC rent a 6 mhz channel and run their own DOCSIS channel? Will there be room for MSO broadcast TV once every fly by night CLEC obtains a channel and holds onto it forever even though it went through bankruptcy and doesn't sell cable internet anymore (think about the mess with IPs and Area Codes)?

Tron4Net

join:2010-01-14
Corrales, NM
I elect you Bill Dollar to go to Washington and impose your will on these fools!!

joebarnhart
Paxio evangelist

join:2005-12-15
Santa Clara, CA

"Open access" as a business model

With incumbents holding so tightly onto their modest connections, the demand for open access has never been higher. This creates opportunities for smaller players to gain customers and market share by exploiting open access as a business model.

For example, look at my provider, Paxio. Their business model is FTTH and complete open access. Open access is warmly received by prospective customers and helps Paxio gain entry into HOAs, apartments, and businesses that would otherwise see them as "just another internet provider."

Let FCC drag their heels -- the market will win anyway. Open access is an idea whose time has come.

Duramax08
To The Moon
Premium
join:2008-08-03
San Antonio, TX

Kick him out

Seems like that Blair Levin is slacking on the job, Time to hire a new guy.
--
Would like a landline but wireless will work for now.

FLengineer
CCNA, CEH, MCSA
Premium
join:2007-06-26
Leesburg, FL

HEY Levin, READ THIS!

The only reason I have internet access at home is for email. Now that I have email on my phone I don't need my internet connection and could save myself $50 a month. But wait, I also have three kids in the public school system who requires them to get online. Now one of them actually has to get online twice a week, If she doesn't then she will receive 2 zeros. In a government that FORCES me to have internet access or leave work and go pick my children up from school so they can use the library computers, I think that government should have well placed rules and regulations that can NOT be disputed.

Now, I hold a CCNA and I work in the telecom industry so don't assume that I am not qualified to discuss this. I am simply voicing my opinion for the countless other parents I see that aren't fortunate enough to have internet access at home.

FLengineer
CCNA, CEH, MCSA
Premium
join:2007-06-26
Leesburg, FL

2 recommendations

Re: HEY Levin, READ THIS!

PS

The wireless carriers don't need your address before telling you how much their services cost because their service costs the same no matter where you live or what their competition is in your area. Why does comcast charge me more than someone in a fios area? It's because in my area the only other option is Centrylink which maxes out at 3 Mbs.

FORCE THE CARRIERS TO CHARGE THE SAME PRICE FOR THE SAME SERVICE NATIONWIDE.

Camaro
Question everything
Premium
join:2008-04-05
Westfield, MA
kudos:1

Re: HEY Levin, READ THIS!

Hah hah pipe dream my friend

Tron4Net

join:2010-01-14
Corrales, NM
thanks for the info!
patcat88

join:2002-04-05
Jamaica, NY
kudos:1
said by FLengineer:

The only reason I have internet access at home is for email. Now that I have email on my phone I don't need my internet connection and could save myself $50 a month. But wait, I also have three kids in the public school system who requires them to get online. Now one of them actually has to get online twice a week, If she doesn't then she will receive 2 zeros. In a government that FORCES me to have internet access or leave work and go pick my children up from school so they can use the library computers, I think that government should have well placed rules and regulations that can NOT be disputed.
The government also requires you to buy food for your kids, put a roof, buy heat, electricity and mains water for them, otherwise you goto jail, and they goto group home, and CPS then garnishes your (mom and dad) wages for child support. Thank you for living in the USA.

FLengineer
CCNA, CEH, MCSA
Premium
join:2007-06-26
Leesburg, FL

Re: HEY Levin, READ THIS!

buy food
If the FDA tells a grocery chain that they must do something there isn't a 3 year court battle about it

put a roof
The government inspects their quality and if it doesn't pass there isn't a 3 year court battle about it.

buy heat, electricity and mains water
In my state progress energy wanted to raise rates by 20% but the state government stepped in and demanded an explanation and proof

The point is all of those things you mentioned is well regulated but when the FCC opens it's mouth the telcos challenge them.
patcat88

join:2002-04-05
Jamaica, NY
kudos:1

Re: HEY Levin, READ THIS!

said by FLengineer:

buy food
If the FDA tells a grocery chain that they must do something there isn't a 3 year court battle about it
What about the USDA? »www.downsizinggovernment.org/agr ··· ubsidies

said by FLengineer:

put a roof
The government inspects their quality and if it doesn't pass there isn't a 3 year court battle about it.
In some areas the government forgets to ever reinspect it, although beating the building code legally is extremely rare.
said by FLengineer:

buy heat, electricity and mains water
In my state progress energy wanted to raise rates by 20% but the state government stepped in and demanded an explanation and proof
Thats your state. My state (New York) pays coal power plants per hour to not operate for "environmental" reasons from an 8% "system benefits charge" on my bill, then making natural gas look "affordable" through supply and demand. Doesn't help New York is usually in the top 3 for most expensive power.

said by FLengineer:

The point is all of those things you mentioned is well regulated but when the FCC opens it's mouth the telcos challenge them.

joebarnhart
Paxio evangelist

join:2005-12-15
Santa Clara, CA
Got a phone at home? There's always dial-up!


•••

FFH5
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Open Access from FTTH co's. that don't want to be ISPs

The only future for Open Access is where companies want to build FTTH systems(like for greenfield developments; or community systems) and DON'T want to be in the ISP business as well.

The FCC doesn't want to recommend Open Access mandates by government because they know that the congresscritters will never back that suggestion and give the FCC the legal backing to do so.

The FCC will only recommend those things that they know there is already support for in Congress. Plans drawn up by agencies that depend on Congress for their operating funds will only submit plans that they know have backing. And that is just the nature of a bureaucracy.

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

So there's very little hope for US Broadband in the future?

Basically, what you have now is probably what you'll have in 5 years. Maybe if you're lucky there might be some FIOS or U-Verse coming to your area, but with today's limited competition it remains expensive and will continue having restrictive terms of use.

Nothing like the Japanese or Korean free market is coming here anytime in the next few decades--- if ever, it appears.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

Camaro
Question everything
Premium
join:2008-04-05
Westfield, MA
kudos:1

1 recommendation

And greed wins again

Wonder if we could get a look at his finances in the last couple of months,enough said.

PapaMidnight

join:2009-01-13
Baltimore, MD

"...incumbent duopoly providers..."

Hey, Karl. No offense, but what duopoly are we speaking of here?
My personal options include: Comcast, Netgear, and linksys, but one way or another, my options still include nothing but Comcast.
jbwhite99

join:2005-03-22
Raleigh, NC

We need more Lafayettes!

We need more communities like Lafayette, LA and Wilson, NC to step up! My take is that the FCC and local communities need to say "if you won't upgrade the community in 3 years, you'll allow someone else to do it". Forget these monopolistic local franchise agreements - make them serve the community, not serve the shareholders. If you don't want to serve this community, let someone else step in and do it.

I live within walking distance of AT&T's U-Verse HQ and Time Warner's regional HQ (both are down the street from where I work, and less than 2 miles from my house). My options are $55 7/.375 or $65 10/.5 cable or DSL where the price changes when the wind blows. And this is supposedly the most wired area in the country, according to Forbes!

No wonder communities want Google - to break out of this monopoly.