150 tech companies press government for net neutrality (Update)

May 08, 2014 by Glenn Chapman
Google, Facebook, Amazon and other online giants warn that the Internet faces a "grave threat" if service providers are able to prioritize or restrict usage based on negotiated payments

Pressure is building on US regulators to stop powerful firms from hogging Internet "fast lanes" that could be allowed under proposed rules that will be discussed next week.

More than 100 technology firms including titans Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter came out Wednesday against Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggested rules of the road that seemingly run counter to the cherished ideal of "net neutrality."

Internet service providers with virtual strangleholds on some US cities would be able to charge tolls for data to get priority in "fast lanes" under regulations recommended by FCC chief Tom Wheeler last month.

Such rules "would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them," Google, Amazon, Microsoft and other Internet firms said in a letter to the FCC.

"This represents a grave threat to the Internet."

Call to stall vote

An FCC commissioner has called for a delay of the planned May 15 vote on the proposed rules in order to discuss making them stronger.

The rules wouldn't prevent ISPs from allowing tech titans such as Netflix or Google to pay for faster data speeds but would require that competing traffic move at "reasonable" speeds.

The "open Internet notice of proposed rule making" sent from Wheeler to the full commission last month was pounced on by critics as a betrayal of the goal of keeping the Internet "neutral" by preventing some online traffic from getting priority over other content.

Netflix came out against the notion of allowing toll-based fast lanes shortly after the proposal went public.

Gap in oversight

The FCC was adamant that it remains committed to net neutrality and is trying to create rules that can withstand legal scrutiny.

Two prior attempts, the most recent in 2010, by the FCC to hold broadband service providers to standards were stymied by US District Court decisions that such moves were outside the agency's scope of authority.

Wheeler seized on part of the most recent court decision that suggests the FCC has power to take action if ISPs act in "commercially unreasonable" ways.

The proposed rules "follow the roadmap established by the court as to how to enforce rules of the road that protect an open Internet," Wheeler said in a blog post.

"To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted," the FCC chairman maintained.

The FCC contends there is a "gap" in oversight of ISPs because the court struck down its efforts to ban blocking or slowing of online data.

Wheeler wants new rules in place by the end of this year.

The FCC maintained that the proposed rules will bar ISP behaviors "harmful to consumers" and allow it to set high standards for what is "commercially reasonable."

Net neutrality advocates argue that letting Internet firms with deep pockets pay for faster data transmission will put innovative young startups at a disadvantage.

Explore further: Wheeler says FCC won't allow Internet 'slow lane'

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User comments : 8

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Argiod
2 / 5 (4) May 08, 2014
If huge businesses/corporations want lots of bandwidth without hogging the net and slowing everyone else down...
Give them their own internet backbone... This would give them all the speed and bandwidth they need (at a premium price, of course), and free up the bandwidth that we, the people, are already paying for... and not getting due to this sort of behavior; and, of course, all the pop-up, pop-under, sidebars and other shoved-in-our-face advertising...
rwinners
1 / 5 (3) May 08, 2014
Obama and his boys should listen very carefully to these spokesmen for industry. VERY CAREFULLY!
version782
5 / 5 (2) May 09, 2014
I don't understand how this kind of garbage gets passed when it is only for the benefit of a very small number of rich people and 99.9% will suffer because of it.
PinkElephant
1 / 5 (1) May 09, 2014
Actually, the solution is pretty simple on its face (though may be somewhat tricky to implement ... yet ISPs are definitely in a position to do it, and should already have most if not all of the hardware for it):

1) Instead of charging a fixed monthly fee for a certain peak connection speed, charge people on the quantity of bits they transfer (both upstream and downstream) per unit of time.

2) Faster rates of bit transfer cost more (i.e. downloading 1 GB in one hour costs more than downloading 100 MB per hour for 10 hours)

3) The final monthly bill is just a discrete sum over all the fine-grained data transfer intervals (e.g. hourly) over that monthly period for each paid connection.

Those are the basics. A slightly more sophisticated scheme would vary the overall pricing curve based on congestion pricing.

Now users and providers self-regulate based on cost -- the Capitalist way. And no need to filter/throttle based on type/origin/content of traffic...
rwinners
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2014
@pinkelephant

Who... what organization, is going to be responsible for the collection of these fees? What organization is going to be able to manage this accounting across multitudes of networks and network connections?
PinkElephant
not rated yet May 10, 2014
@rwinners,

To repeat, the ISPs (internet service providers). They already charge their customers a flat fee. They also see every single packet of data that comes from a customer's modem or is received by the customer. Counting up all those transmissions is pretty trivial, and it's just a matter of setting up automated systems to take care of it and charge the customers accordingly.

In a similar fashion, ISPs could charge each other for data that passes between them. If on balance they send and receive about equal quantities between each other, then they break even and don't owe each other anything; otherwise the more exploitative one pays the other on the net difference.
PinkElephant
not rated yet May 10, 2014
As an example, consider the fact that many smartphone plans have a monthly data cap after which they either throttle the connection or start charging extra per unit of data transmitted. In a way, wireless ISPs already have implemented a significant chunk of the solution. So I'm not really proposing anything particularly Earth I shattering here...
sirchick
5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2014
I don't understand how this kind of garbage gets passed when it is only for the benefit of a very small number of rich people and 99.9% will suffer because of it.


You don't understand how politicians often think for the rich and not the majority poor ? They are politicians... there's your answer.

EU threw the idea out ages ago. So im glad they are a bit smarter on this subject.

I bet half the people passing these ideas through, know nothing of how to use basic things on the world wide web.

How many politicians use reddit? Or even know what an "internet meme" is... if they fail basic questions of world wide web knowledge they should have no say in what happens to the world wide web.