US regulators tentatively OK Internet 'fast lanes' (Update 2)

May 15, 2014 by Rob Lever
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler speaks before calling for a vote during a meeting of the commissioners on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington

US regulators voted Thursday for a controversial proposal that would allow Internet "fast lanes" while leaving open the possibility of tougher regulations to protect online access.

Amid demonstrations outside its meeting and following weeks of lobbying from various groups, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the new rules, which still must go through a public comment period before being finalized.

The plan, which aims to replace rules struck down by a US federal court, seeks to keep some principles of "net neutrality"—the notion that all online traffic should be treated equally—while allowing commercial deals authorizing companies to pay for faster Internet access.

The FCC said the proposed rules may allow special deals for priority access but that each would be examined for "commercial reasonableness."

At the same time, the commission said it was keeping open the possibility of regulating Internet access as a public utility, which could give the FCC much greater authority over Internet access providers.

Fails to allay critics

The plan was touted as a means to preserve an "open Internet" but did not placate critics on either side of the issue—those who want a guarantee of equal access, and those seeking less regulation that allows deals for faster speeds.

Michael Weinberg of the activist group Public Knowledge said the proposal "remains insufficient to guarantee a truly open and neutral Internet."

Protesters hold a rally to support "net neutrality" and urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject a proposal that would allow Internet "fast lanes" on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington

He said the proposal "would create a two-tier Internet where 'commercially reasonable' discrimination is allowed on any connections that exceed an unknown 'minimum level of access' defined by the FCC."

Scott Cleland, a consultant and chairman of the business group NetCompetition representing telecom and Internet firms, said the plan leaves open the possibility of heavy-handed regulation that "would require every business decision of consequence to be approved by the FCC."

Michael Powell, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association which includes big Internet firms such as Comcast, said "we will continue to reiterate our unwavering opposition to any proposals that attempt to reclassify broadband services under the heavy-handed regulatory yoke" of FCC rules.

Backers of so-called net neutrality say tougher FCC rules would prevent major Internet firms from slowing or degrading services like video-streaming outfit Netflix, and new emerging services.

Debate on the issue became muddled earlier this year when Netflix signed a deal with Comcast to pay for improved network access, even though the company has long opposed the notion of "tolls" on the Internet.

More protests, more lobbying

The plan appeared likely to generate more protests such as the one outside FCC headquarters, where several hundred people banged drums and carried signs reading "Save the Internet."

"If we start creating express lanes on the Internet, they're only going to be reserved for a small handful of big companies and those that can afford to pay them huge, huge rates," said Craig Aaron, president of the activist group Free Press.

A protester is pulled from meetings of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington

The political action group MoveOn called for protests of the decision at 19 FCC regional offices.

"An open Internet levels the playing field in our democracy and that's why it's so alarming that the FCC is moving forward chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed rules that would break President Obama's promise to uphold net neutrality—rules that could destroy the Internet as we know it," said MoveOn campaign director Victoria Kaplan.

Michael Beckerman at the Internet Association said the group representing major Web firms like Google and Yahoo "will advocate for the FCC to use its full legal authority to enforce rules that lead to an open Internet—nothing should be taken off the table as this discussion evolves."

Gabe Rottman at the American Civil Liberties Union said the plan "leaves the individual at the mercy of an increasingly concentrated broadband market, in which the big players will be able to act as gatekeepers for online speech, deciding what gets seen and when."

"Fortunately, the FCC left the door open to fix this problem by reclassifying broadband Internet service as what it really is: a public utility," Rottman said.

A White House statement said President Barack Obama "supports net neutrality and an open Internet" while adding: "The FCC is an independent agency, and we will carefully review their proposal."

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User comments : 27

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joemostowey
3 / 5 (4) May 15, 2014
Edwin Starr should do another song:
Obama, huh, yeah
What is he good for
Absolutely nothing
Uh-huh
Obama, huh, yeah
What is he good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, y'all
Obama, huh, good God
What is he good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me
A very apt chorus for a do nothing, inept, incompetent president- Unless he really is a Republican, Then his record is sterling sliver.
Appointing the primary, top lobbyist to the FCC?
Anyone else see this coming?
joemostowey
4.4 / 5 (7) May 15, 2014
"Michael Powell, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association which includes big Internet firms such as Comcast, said "we will continue to reiterate our unwavering opposition to any proposals that attempt to reclassify broadband services under the heavy-handed regulatory yoke" of FCC rules."

Wasn't he also an FCC chairman at one time?

The FCC seems to be the guard dog for the Monopolies running the ISPs.

From Wiki: His deregulatory policy coincided with a period of significant consolidation in the communications market,

Sounds like the FCC stands for Friend to Commercial Companies.

Tom Wheeler certainly seems to be one.

aksdad
2.1 / 5 (7) May 15, 2014
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Internet ain't broke. If you want better, faster, service, you have to pay for it. It isn't free.

The Internet is already "open" except when limited by governments in oppressive countries like China and North Korea. Many perversely argue that "unregulated by government" somehow equates to "access limited by private companies", exactly the opposite of what is true.

Access to the Internet is not, and never was, "free". The infrastructure was built by numerous organizations and companies driven by a profit motive. Private entities have every right to limit access or charge users more for greater consumption.

Free, unregulated markets allow competition between providers which always results in the lowest costs and best experience for consumers.

There is no evidence of insufficient competition among the major players in the "increasingly concentrated broadband market". Competition for customers is a major incentive for them to be consumer-oriented.
Zera
5 / 5 (6) May 15, 2014
The internet is a global network of human beings, providing digital data in the format of input. With servers/computers/people conducting work to process this information and provide output to the various other people/computers and such.

http://www3.nd.ed...t_lg.png

What's remarkable is that this structure largely resembles MRI's of the human brain. Society is already dominated by "vested interest" subgroupings, visible in economics. Namely which business make what profit for which company.

If you allow the network to create dominate channels, well, the process and output will change. The image will reprsent not equality but control.

Intelligence should not be shackled.

rwinners
4.2 / 5 (6) May 16, 2014
It appears clear to me that no matter who 'regulates' traffic on the internet, self interest will prevail and the rest of us will be the losers....

Oh well... it was nice while it lasted...
Eikka
5 / 5 (6) May 16, 2014
Private entities have every right to limit access or charge users more for greater consumption.


There is no "consumption" on the internet. Bits don't cost money - bandwidth does.

And people are already paying for theirs. You pay whatever you pay per month so the ISP promises you a certain amount of bandwidth, and it's their problem if they don't actually have that much bandwidth to dish out. You want faster access, you pay more - that's how it already works.

The problem here is that the ISPs want to double dip - charge more than once for the same thing - by first making the broadband customer pay for bandwidth, then making the content provider pay for bandwidth, and then making both pay for the amount of bits they transfer even though the bits themselves don't cost anything!

And that's only possible because the ISPs are building monopolies and the FCC isn't doing anything to stop it, or anything to prevent the abuse
Eikka
4.2 / 5 (5) May 16, 2014
There is no evidence of insufficient competition among the major players in the "increasingly concentrated broadband market". Competition for customers is a major incentive for them to be consumer-oriented.


Bull****

Comcast is already quitely rolling out data caps across their less competed areas, and is looking to put data caps in all consumer service plans, and isn't even giving people any discount for getting a lesser service. You pay the same as before, except more once you go past some arbitrary monthly limit.

The reason is to stop people from watching online streaming video because it would bust their bank, so Comcast and partners can sell them their own streaming and IP-TV services that don't count towards the data cap. This is one of the many abuses caused by the lack of competition and net neutrality.

If you had to treat all data the same, Comcast couldn't offer a "fast lane" for its video while leaving everyone else to go through the limited service tier.

Eikka
5 / 5 (4) May 16, 2014
http://www.dslrep...n-122791

For years the cable industry insisted that they imposed usage caps because network congestion made them necessary. You'll recall that Time Warner Cable insisted that if they weren't allowed to impose caps and overages the Internet would face "brown outs."
(...)
The problem of course was that real data from researchers like Andrew Odlyzko repeatedly showed that well-run fixed line networks don't have serious capacity issues, and that looming video growth was easily handled by even modest network investment.


http://www.dslrep...h-117230

The bandwidth hog is a myth.
(...)
In realty, caps and overages are implemented by carriers that simply want to jack up the cost of bandwidth so they can protect TV revenues from Internet video by making Internet video more costly and less appealing.
Eikka
5 / 5 (5) May 16, 2014
And here's the rationale why the data caps don't actually work, in the form of a highway analogy:

1% of vehicle drivers on the road travel a disproportionate amount of miles compared to the average driver. But they are on the road all the time. Most of the time they are on the road there is no rush hour congestion.

The heavy drivers are likely to be involved in rush hour traffic jams, but only represent a small, not terribly relevant, fraction of total drivers in the traffic jam.

Limiting the amount of miles a driver can drive, does nothing to widen the roads and little to keep people off the roads during traffic jams, thus does not help with congestion.


Usage limits and data price plans on the internet make about as much sense as putting up a mile quota on your car. They're just a means to milk more money out of you.

nowhere
5 / 5 (5) May 16, 2014
Access to the Internet is not, and never was, "free".

The term free is used to describe a non corrupted Internet, not a nonprofit one.

Private entities have every right to limit access or charge users more for greater consumption.

Which they currently do. They do not have a right to charge more for 'type' of consumption, which is what they want.

Free, unregulated markets

There is no such thing. A free market is a well regulated one.

allow competition between providers which always results in the lowest costs and best experience for consumers

Unregulated markets allow competitors to colluded and raise prices, because they know just as you do that competition only leads to lower profits for them.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) May 16, 2014
Unregulated markets allow competitors to colluded and raise prices,

A well regulated market is best regulated by customers and competition.
Collusion inevitably fails as long as there is no govt force to limit competition, as one has now with local cable regulated by cities and HOAs.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.8 / 5 (4) May 16, 2014
Unregulated markets allow competitors to colluded and raise prices,

A well regulated market is best regulated by customers and competition.
Well this didn't work with GM when people kept buying vehicles despite the fact that the airbags might not work? Without govt action they'd still be selling them. YES they would.
Collusion inevitably fails as long as there is no govt force to limit competition, as one has now with local cable regulated by cities and HOAs.
Business naturally seeks to limit competition through collusion. Big business owners identify themselves as part of a tribe separate from consumers, and seek through cooperation to solidify their hold on markets.

It is the same way with Leaders.
kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (4) May 16, 2014
"faster speeds" is an absurdity. The limit is the speed of light. Any curtailment of that speed means the carrier is not doing their job. The subtext is that they want to continue employing obsolete infrastructure over public access routes to pickpocket Internet users
bearly
1 / 5 (2) May 16, 2014
Once again the corporations and their puppet government officials stick it to the American people. With oduma in charge its like Murphy's Law is what the government strives for.
barakn
5 / 5 (4) May 17, 2014
A well regulated market is best regulated by customers and competition. -soggyring2

Isn't it odd that cable prices increased more in markets with competition than in those without? It's almost like the universe wants you to be wrong. http://arstechnic...flation/
Jimee
5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2014
Why are racists so intent on smearing Obama? Oh, yeah. They're racists.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) May 18, 2014
A well regulated market is best regulated by customers and competition.
Collusion inevitably fails as long as there is no govt force to limit competition, as one has now with local cable regulated by cities and HOAs.


That only works in imaginary markets.

In the real world, physical facts prevent free competition. Especially in telecommunications because 99.999% of the cost to a telecom operator is fixed in the infrastructure.

A startup ISP simply cannot compete with an established giant because they need to build a parallel infrastructure while the giant can afford to undercut prices to prevent customers from switching carriers. The competitors could try, but they would only lose - so nobody tries. The price of entry into a geographical area with an existing monopoly or cartel is too high.

The only time you can really compete is when you offer something that the old monopoly doesn't have, such as fiber vs. dialup, but that's just shifting form one monopoly to anohter.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) May 18, 2014
More precisely, under totally non-regulated markets, a telecom operator must build everything from the ground up to compete with an existing company on the market.

Everything. The trunk network, the exchanges, the last mile links - everything. That means every competitor creates unneeded redundancy that costs money, which is ultimately paid by the consumers because there exists however many times the necessary infrastructure just so that you could choose between roughly equal alternatives to keep the competition going.

Under those circumstances, where everyone has a parallel redundant infrastructure that costs each approximately the same amount of money to run, the one who gets the most customers first can afford to keep the lowest prices, gets competetive advantage, grows bigger and gets even more advantage.

Everyone else goes bust, sell their infrastructure to recoup losses, and the winner turns into a monopoly because nobody else has any infrastructure anymore.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) May 18, 2014
That's why there exists rules and regulations in many places that say a network operator must let other ISPs lease their infrastructure at a reasonable price.

That way, if operator A owns the network and B just leases it, operator A cannot charge their customers completely ridiculous prices because operator B can sell the same thing cheaper. A can always be cheaper than B, but there would be no point in trying to drive B off because if A then tried to use the situation to jack up prices again, another company C would appear and A would again have to lease them their network at reasonable price set by the market regulators.

That leads to a balance where the market prices are set by the differential between how much it costs to run the network, and how much more operator A is allowed to charge for the lease. That is, of course, unless A and B form a cartel.

But without network neutrality, the network owner could throttle the leased capacity at will and force the competition out.
sirchick
5 / 5 (1) May 19, 2014
So glad Europe denied this proposal already. USA sure love to control the internet, yet condemn when the likes of other countries block its citizen's from twitter and what not.

Is there a really a difference anymore... i think not.

I just don't understand why internet is so bad in USA - one of the most developed countries in the world.... i know people on internet speeds 100ths of the speed i have and pay almost 4 times as much with data caps that would max out after a single game download from a console store or steam etc...and yet across the pond we have no data caps and im about to get a free upgrade to 1Gb/s connection in the next 3 years... crazy.

It really is so bizarre how America did not push internet as hard as we did. I think USA lose out because of it.
kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) May 19, 2014
USA is balkanized banana republic so desperate to sputtering debt-war machine that they entice war with Russia with their 200 hired mercenaries, while their infrastructure crumbles to nothing. Look at all the new prosperity in USA it is corporate borrowing bubble with little involvement from the consumer. The USA consumer is only experiencing higher prices from the boom and diminished means

Look at the retarded ratings given me by Jimee, Dr_toad. Americans who somehow think the speed of light is not the only real speed limit. Perhaps they have a very real methamphetamine or coke habit blocking their personal progress, but this is a science site
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 19, 2014
USA is balkanized banana republic so desperate to sputtering debt-war machine that they entice war with Russia with their 200 hired mercenaries, while their infrastructure crumbles to nothing. Look at all the new prosperity in USA it is corporate borrowing bubble with little involvement from the consumer. The USA consumer is only experiencing higher prices from the boom and diminished means
You sound bitter. Perhaps it is because your country is hopelessly corrupted by dumbass mafiosos and youve gotten what tech you have the same way as china is getting theirs - you steal it, or it is simply handed to you out of charity.

I understand.

I understand you have an economy the size of norway. Not counting the black market of course.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) May 19, 2014
More precisely, under totally non-regulated markets, a telecom operator must build everything from the ground up to compete with an existing company on the market
Except if theyre AT&T and can buy their own directtv company for 45B. Does this mean we're all going to have satphones in a few years?

As tech is improving geometrically (exponentially?), isnt this speed thing going to be moot in only a few years?
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) May 20, 2014
As tech is improving geometrically (exponentially?), isnt this speed thing going to be moot in only a few years?


Cellular bandwidth is limited to the spectrum you have, and landline capacity is physically limited to the cable you have, so I wouldn't go calling moore's law on the internet. If anything, the demand for data will rise while the infrastructure fails to keep up.

When it hasn't been the case for any other computer technology either at least since the 90's, or back when Moore himself "fixed" the estimate.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 20, 2014
Cellular bandwidth is limited to the spectrum you have, and landline capacity is physically limited to the cable you have
And if we eventually abandon both for satellite communication, where is the limit then? Why else would AT&T buy direct tv? Some consumers may even be able to afford communication via coherent beams, laser or maser, between sats and ground stations.
Caliban
not rated yet May 20, 2014
Unregulated markets allow competitors to colluded and raise prices,

A well regulated market is best regulated by customers and competition.
Collusion inevitably fails as long as there is no govt force to limit competition, as one has now with local cable regulated by cities and HOAs.


Well then, rygsuckn' --in which market does this new lack of regulation place the internet and it's neutrality(or not)?
Is it a market "regulated by customers and competition", or one in which "there is no govt force to limit competition"?

You know all there is to know about free markets, competition, collusion, regulation and coercion, so spit it out.

What kind of market is it, then, Marjon?

Quantify and qualify it for us, and then predict for us, based upon ypour Quan/Qual modeling of the industry, if we can expect rates to increase or decrease, and why.

By your defeinitions, I would say it's unregulated by gov, so prices should drop real soon, right?

Right?

M
Eikka
not rated yet May 26, 2014
And if we eventually abandon both for satellite communication, where is the limit then?


Satellite communication is limited by both the available radio spectrum and the latency of sending signals 32 000 miles up and down between geosynchronous orbit and the ground.

It's like cellular internet, but your ping times are ten times worse, and the total bandwidth capacity is much smaller because there's less hardware up there to relay your packets.

Why else would AT&T buy direct tv?


Who knows? Maybe they want to start their own "netflix" after throttling the heck out of the existing one on their networks.