Tag: net neutrality

Canada cements in net neutrality

While US president Donald (prince of Orange) Trump is giving Big Telco the internet, things are going the opposite way in Canada.

A new ruling by Canada’s telecommunications watchdog has stated that internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person’s data cap.

The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers.

Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC said that rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices.

“That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume.”

The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec.

Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron’s internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form — nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.

US Telcos given blank cheque on net neutrality

70977464_7d8ecfa4da_zThe Federal Communications Commission’s new Republican leadership is turning the outfit into the sort of watchdog who snoozes while the comms companies burgle the house.

On Friday evening, the man in charge rescinded a ruling that AT&T and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules with paid data cap exemptions and promised to look away on the racket.

The Trump appointed Chairman Ajit Pai has also rescinded several other reports and actions he disagreed with.

The comms companies had a wizard wheeze to kill off competition for their video services by allowing them to be used without counting against data cap restrictions.  After all there is nothing wrong with throttling your opposition is there?  The FCC disagreed but Pai saw nothing wrong with it. Now he is in charge he is making sure that there is nothing to stop the comms companies throttling who they like – so long as it is not him, we guess.

Pai says that free data offerings are “popular among consumers precisely because they allow more access to online music, videos, and other content free of charge.” He has also vowed to overturn the FCC’s net neutrality rules and hasn’t committed to enforcing them while they remain in place.

But the abandoning of the investigation is the first move that Pai has taken against the FCC’s anti-net neutrality laws.

Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly added that this was just the first step they would be taking to protect the poor comms companies from regulations so they could continue to provide the sorts of products their customers wanted without the fear of red tape.  After all companies with total regional monopolies always provide what their customers want and never think of profits first.


Trump’s new FTC chairman fudges on Net Neutrality

trumpuckerPresident Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump’s new Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai promised that the FCC will eliminate regulations under his leadership.

This was no real surprise, Pai was widely expected to hand over control of the US telecommunications networks back to the comms companies so they could charge what they like with a minimum amount of red tape.

He was also expected to spike net neutrality laws and allow the comms companies to charge high users such as Google extra money for having high traffic sites.

But Pai fudged on a lot of that. He prattled on about consumer protection and enforcement being important priorities for the commission—but he wouldn’t comment about whether he’ll enforce the existing net neutrality rules.

Pai has repeatedly made it clear that he opposes the current rules and wants to overturn them, he has not said whether the commission will continue to enforce all the rules while they are still in place.

Pai pointed out that he wouldn’t punish small ISPs for violations of the net neutrality order’s “enhanced transparency” rules. The FCC is finalising an order that will exempt ISPs with 250,000 or fewer subscribers from those truth-in-billing rules and will not enforce them against the small ISPs while they’re still in place.

He is refusing to say if he will enforce the core net neutrality rules that prohibit Internet providers from blocking or throttling traffic or giving priority to Web services in exchange for payment.

Pai said: “I think the issue is pretty simple. I favour a free and open Internet and I oppose Title II. That’s pretty much all I can say about that topic.”
Title II was the reclassification of Internet providers as common carriers and the related imposition of net neutrality rules. In May 2014, Pai voted against a preliminary version of the rules that did not include a Title II reclassification and were weaker than the ones ultimately approved the following year.

One think that he will be doing is finding ways to stop robocalling.

The first FCC meeting eliminated two public inspection file rules. One of the rules required TV and radio stations to maintain copies of correspondence from viewers and listeners and make them available to the public.

The other eliminated rule required cable companies to “maintain and allow public inspection of the location of a cable system’s principal headend.”.

In his press conference, Pai said this vote is just the first step toward his goal of “modernising” regulations and “removing unnecessary or counterproductive regulations.”

President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to get rid of two regulations for every new regulation added, because that is really smart.

Pai said this order apparently doesn’t apply to independent agencies like the FCC, but said he still wants to remove “legacy regulations” if they’re not necessary to promote competition and the public interest.

What will be more interesting is seeing if he is going to stand up to the hugely powerful telcos or just attempt to make life easier for them.

Rubio and Cruz pledge to end net neutrality

TCMRRepublican presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have decided to celebrate the one year anniversary of the FCC’s net neutrality rules by trying to kill them.

Cruz and Rubio have joined six other Senators in pushing the new Restoring Internet Freedom Act  which would dismantle the rules, change the FCC’s Title II reclassification of ISPs as common carriers, and prevent the FCC from trying to pass net neutrality rules in the future.

Of course this is of no benefit to the American consumer, just the big corporate telcos, so in cause you think that Rubio and Cruz might be anti-establishment types, this sort of action means that they are probably the same corporate puppets as everyone else.

In a statement posted to the Rubio website, the Presidential hopeful states the new law is necessary because the FCC’s “burdensome” net neutrality rules are destroying innovation, diversity, and network investment:quote:

“The Internet has always been one of the best models of the free market. There are low barriers to entry, back and forth communication between consumers and providers, and a rapid evolution of ideas. “Through burdensome regulations and tight control like the net neutrality rule, the government only hinders accessibility and the diversity of content,” added Rubio. “Consumers should be driving the market, and we can help by encouraging innovation, incentivizing investment, and promoting the competitive environment this industry needs.”

Of course that implies that the US telecom market is free, which it is not.  In best cases it is a duopoly and the rules are hardly enforced so are not exactly “burdensome”. Comcast is using usage caps and zero rating to violate neutrality and give their own services an advantage against Netflix.

So basically it looks like the only consumer protection laws that the US has won in the last decade against corporations will be rolled back if either of these two gets elected.


Facebook pushes plea for net neutrality

The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has responded to complaints in India this week that its internet.org initiative is a barrier to net neutrality.Facebook

Zuckerberg said Facebook made internet.org in an attempt to connect the globe by striking deas with mobile operators and governments.

He claimed that internet.org lowers the cost of poor people accessing the internet which simply isn’t affordable for everyone in the world.

Internet.org, he said in his blog, gives free access to basic internet services like messaging, jobs and health.

So far, he claimed, 800 million in nine countries can get free basic services through internet.org.

It’s made a deal with Indian provider Reliance to give basic services to people in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala. He said it’s launched the service on the Indosat network in Indonesia this week.

Zuckerberg said Facebook wants to keep the internet open, and internet.org won’t block or throttle any other services. He called internet providers to join in the initiative.

You can find his blog post, here.

Community groups duped into anti-net neutrality group

A large number of US community groups found themselves roped into joining an anti-net neutrality lobby group supporting the cable companies.

Desperate to appear like their greedy views on net-neutrality were part of the mainstream of American thought, the cable and cellphone industry, signed up a number of small groups to their lobby organisation.

The sign ups were designed to show to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that consumer advocates agreed with the comms companies plans to charge users twice for their internet use. By having small businesses in their lobby group, dubbed Broadband for America, it made it look like there was a grass roots call for a two tiered interent.

However it has been revealed that Broadband for America largely funded by a single contribution from the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA) which is the trade group that represents Comcast, Cox, and Time Warner Cable. The member list is a random assortment of companies and community groups, many of which say they never intended to sign up for an anti-net neutrality coalition.

For example Vice  found several groups that did not know that they were members of the group. Bob Calvert, the host of TalkingWithHeroes.com, did not even know he had signed up for anything political. Another Broadband for America member, the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, said it had joined only to support broadband access in rural and underserved areas, not on issues relating to net neutrality or the classification of broadband as a utility.

Dave Pearson, president of the group said he would reexamine its endorsement and make a determination whether to continue supporting the coalition should it find that the current policies they are proposing would undermine the original goal of greater access for all Americans

Don Hollister, the executive director of the Ohio League of Conservation Voters, said he was unaware of his organization being listed as a Broadband for America member.

Broadband for America’s has used its “300-member coalition” saying that net neutrality the rules would “cripple development of the internet”.

Google wants to build tools to see internet throttling

Search outfit Google has written a one million dollar cheque to Georgia Tech boffins to develop tools to detect internet throttling and government censorship.

According to Ars Technica the project will take two years and Georgia Tech could get a $500,000 extension. However, the idea is at the end of it Google will get a suite of Web-based, internet-scale measurement tools that any user around the world could access for free.

What it will mean is that users can work out if ISPs are providing the service customers are paying for, and whether the data they send and receive over their network connections is being tampered with by governments and/or ISPs.

Wenke Lee, a computer science professor who is involved with the project, said that it would attempt to build similar tools for smartphone and tablet owners as well.

Such tools would have been useful in Tunisia, Egypt and China, which like to monitor its special citizens. However they could also cause a stir in the United States and Blighty where telcos sell bandwidth on the basis of one speed and then throttle it.

Google has been an advocate of net neutrality, partly because it will kill the internet, but mostly because the first site to be charged in a two tiered web world will be Google.

But we are surprised that Google wants the tools for the mobile world. After all it has gone on record as saying that a two tiered mobile internet is OK. You don’t need tools in Blighty. The telcos have said they are throttling you and don’t give a monkey’s what Google or the BBC has to say about it.

Father of the web says “leave my kid alone”

The father of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has told ISPs that their cunning plan to for a “two-speed” internet goes against the principles that have let the net grow so rapidly in the past 20 years.

Sir Tim said that best practices should also include the neutrality of the net.

According to the Guardian, Berners-Lee was at a round table meeting in Westminster convened by the communications minister Ed Vaizey

At the meeting Facebook, Skype, the BBC and Yahoo, and Sir Tim were on one side and ISPs were on the other.

Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group, who was representing consumer interests at the meeting, said afterwards that he was concerned about the direction the debate was going as it was clear that the regulators and government do not wish to intervene. However the industry is not putting forward anything that looks like meaningful self-regulation.

In Blighty ISPs have for years sought to charge the BBC or customers for using large amonts of bandwidth on things like the iPlayer

Now they are talking about a “two-tier” connection where some services are slower than others. Skype said that this state of affairs exists on Mobile services in the UK because carriers are violating the principle of net neutrality because they fear it will affect their call revenues.

Sir Tim said that every customer should be able to access every service, and every service should be able to access every customer. He said that the web has grown so fast precisely because we have had two independent markets, one for connectivity, and the other for content and applications.

As far as the government was concerned Vaizey said the meeting had been “useful and productive” and that “it was important to discuss how to ensure the internet remains an open, innovative and competitive place.”

It does not look like we will see him putting his foot down soon.

Broadband operators won't tell people lies any more

Major broadband operators in the UK have agreed to sign up to a code which will aim to “provide customers with greater clarity” over the way that data traffic is managed.

BSkyB, BT, O2, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone will all supply information to the Broadband Stakeholder Group, which is spearheading the initiative, so that traffic management techniques can easily be read and compared by users of both fixed line and mobile broadband.

Although the information is already provided by many of the firms, it will soon be available in one format to enable greater clarity via a Key Facts Indicator table which will be available in June 2011.

The call for greater clarity comes not long after UK internet watchdog Ofcom demanded that ISPs give more clarity over the way that they sell broadband speeds, aiming to clear up the rather murky system which allowed operators to claim speeds of double what is actually on offer.

“Broadband has been clouded with unclear technical terms for years, with some vital information often hidden behind unclear ‘fair-usage policies’,” said thinkbroadband co-founder John Hunt.

“This move by major broadband providers to adopt a standardised approach to describing traffic management should help demystify this area, allowing consumers to compare their options easily and make a more informed choice about which broadband product is best for them.”

Speaking to TechEye, Hunt said the move essentially gives the go-ahead to ISPs to create a two tiered system.

“You could say that it is an amber light rather than a green light as it means that the government doesn’t want to step in and stop such a move, and is not clearly saying ‘go ahead’, but is seeking for the ISPs to be more open with what they are doing.”

He believes that it is certainly within the major ISP brand’s interests to publish the code, despite many objectors to the traffic management plans.

“By pushing it from the start means that they are able to control what is happening,” Hunt said.

“So self regulation is certainly preferential than regulation from Ofcom over the matter, and it gives off a good impression of clarity to the customer straight away, which is also in their interest.”

And with growing concern over the way that traffic is managed by ISPs it appears that the BSG hopes the new code will be welcomed by customers still getting to grips with the way that data traffic can be handled depending on time, usage and other factors.

According to Antony Walker, BSG Chief Executive, the code will help curb animosity towards traffic management by critics, and help customers make more informed decision on subscriptions, with calls from certain quarters for a more considered approach to the way that traffic is managed.

“There has been more heat than light in the debate about traffic management over recent years,” he said. “This commitment to provide clear and comparable information in a common format is very important.”

Of course it may come as a slight surprise with tensions rising over net neutrality, both here and in America, that the UK government and ISPs seem so happy to parade the potential division of the internet in the face of grave concerns that it could become a two-tiered environment where those who pay more money are prioritised.

According to Walker the code does not mean a green light to proceed with such schemes, as it merely provides greater clarity over how traffic management works, stating that “It is not yet clear” if prioritising of – say, video streaming – will happen.

However it may seem to the public that the move has already been okayed with the publication of statistics, even before an EC investigation into best approaches is concluded.

In fact, considering that the BSG is sponsors include a number of the those  involved, such as BSkyB and Virgin Media, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills,  it could be questioned how much involvement the ISPs themselves had in the rules, and whether this was indeed a truly independent initiative.

Many in the industry believe that it is inevitable that a tiered approach will happen to some extent.

“The debate between net neutrality and tiered access is hinged on the issue that tiered access is going to impact net neutrality,” says Frederic Huet, managing director of Greenwich Consulting.

“But at the same time, consumers and businesses alike must recognise that some content is harder to transport than others.

“Services such as streamed video are incredibly bandwidth-hungry and can negatively impact service speed, meaning that browsing, email and messaging, which are much lighter and also generate revenues are slower to access.”

Ultimately, Huet contends, the only alternative is Ofcom regulation, which he believes will stifle competition, innovation and consumer choice as only the large ISP brands will have the resources to adapt, as well as “setting a precendent for internet regualtion which will lead down a more complex, more regualted path.” Which is interesting considering how fit for the cull Ofcom is in the eyes of this Coalition government’s austerity age.

British ISPs are not shy about two-tier internet

While in the US, telcos are jolly cagey about talking about a two speed internet, even if they want it more than sex with the entire cast of a Vivid Entertainment movie, the UK is not so shy.

BT, Sky and Virgin Media have sat down and worked out an industry-wide “code of practice” on how they explain selling “two-speed internet” policies to punters.

The three are going to make their announcement, and probably show off some of their hard sell techniques at a ministerial summit on net neutrality chaired by Ed Vaizey.

The World Wide Web’s dad, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the web and a stong supporter of net neutrality will be there. We really hope that he is bringing a lot of rotten fruit to the summit because he will probably go through a lot of it.

Basically, the ISPs plan to publish how they want to manage internet traffic. Of course they will do so making comparisons with their rivals so that it does not appear too bad.

But they will make it clear that they will be throttling popular services such as the BBC’s iPlayer to maintain capacity for all customers on their network. So everyone can use the internet, but if you want to get the whole entertainment advantages of it, you will have to pay through the nose.

They believe that the BBC should be paying them to bring the iPlayer into your home. And you should pay them for… er, bringing the iPlayer into your home. In short, everyone pays twice and the Chairman of BT can buy himself an extra yacht. What could possibly be wrong with that?

BT, TalkTalk and others argue that ISPs should be free to strike deals for more efficient delivery. We think they mean the delivery of profit rather than traffic flows, but it was not clear.

Under the plans, described as a “voluntary code of conduct” by people at the meeting, ISPs will be compelled to publish a “scorecard” of how they speed up and slow down traffic and for which companies. But if they want to they can throttle whoever they like.

Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, publicly intervened in the net neutrality debate in January, saying an internet “fast lane” could undermine the corporation’s responsibility to deliver programming to the nation’s homes.