The United States Department of Justice is trying to figure out whether cable companies are engaging in anti-competitive practices by not counting data consumed through their own homemade streaming services against customers’ monthly bandwidth caps while docking users’ caps for data streamed through third-party companies such as Netflix and Hulu. The Wall Street Journal reports that the investigation has been ongoing for months and that the DOJ has spoken with the major cable players as well as the major content distributors. The investigation stems at least in part from Comcast’s decision earlier this year to exempt data consumed through its Xfinity Xbox app from customers’ monthly data limits, as the DOJ is “examining whether Comcast’s Xbox policy violated legal commitments made by the company in 2011 to secure antitrust approval for its takeover of NBCUniversal,” WSJ reports. More →
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) want to make sure that Congress doesn’t try to pass another piece of legislation like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that failed spectacularly earlier this year. The Hill reports that the two lawmakers are now calling for an “Internet bill of rights” that will effectively block Congress from passing bills that attempt to restrict online freedom. According to The Hill, the proposal gives “digital citizens” the legal right to “a free, uncensored Internet” and an “open, unobstructed Internet.” The Hill also says that the proposal mentions “rights of equality, privacy, sharing and property on the Internet.” All of this sounds nice, but it’s also incredibly vague, especially since the lawmakers introduced no mechanism for actually enforcing all of these great principles. What’s more, both lawmakers seem to have a different personal definition for what an “open, unobstructed Internet” means since Wyden is a strong proponent of net neutrality while Issa has voted to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality rules for wireline services. More →
As service providers and government officials in the United States seemingly look to further limit Internet freedoms, Dutch lawmakers have passed Europe’s first net neutrality bill, digital rights advocate Bits of Freedom reported on Tuesday. The legislation prohibits Internet service providers from throttling users or disconnecting their access unless in extreme circumstances. The bill also includes an anti-wiretapping provision, which restricts Internet providers from using invasive wiretapping technologies to monitor its users, although wiretapping is permitted with a warrant. A technical error in the law might still be corrected in a vote scheduled for May 15th. More →
The United States Senate on Thursday voted 52-46 in opposition of a Republican bill that sought to block the Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rules. Here’s one small example of how a society without net neutrality might work: Say you’re an avid fan of Netflix or Hulu but, since you’re using those services instead of your cable company’s on-demand movie rental platform, your cable company decides to block all access to Netflix and Hulu. Under the FCC’s net neutrality rules, that move by your cable company would be illegal. Instead, cable companies must allow access to all legal content crossing their networks. However, cable and internet companies fear that net neutrality is giving the government too much control over their networks. Verizon moved to appeal the net neutrality rules in January when it said it was “deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the internet itself.” The FCC has since filed a motion to toss Verizon’s suit. The rules are set to go into effect on November 20th, Reuters said. More →
The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday it has filed a motion to dismiss Verizon’s lawsuit in appeal of the FCC’s net neutrality order. Verizon did not agree with the guidelines set in the FCC’s “Open Internet” order and said it was “deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself.” Verizon believes its complaint has grounds because the FCC modified its radio licenses, but the FCC sees it differently. “Notice of Appeal, however, applies only when this Court is asked to review an FCC order that modifies specific individual licenses. It does not apply to review of generally applicable commission orders that, like the Open Internet Order, regulate a broad camp of licensees as a class,” the FCC said in a release. “Jurisdiction over the Open Internet Order thus lies only under [a specific section] and Verizon’s notice of appeal in Case 11-1355 should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.” More →
The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss AT&T’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom — and AT&T’s competitors won’t be sitting quietly. According to The Wall Street Journal, Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse, Viktor Meena of Cellular South, and Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), will all be in attendance. Competitors are expected to grill AT&T’s Randall Stephenson on the deal that Hesse has said will “stifle innovation” and competition in the U.S. wireless market. While there are rumblings that AT&T has more money for lobbying than Sprint and other competitors, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, Verizon, will not be in attendance. “We are concerned this is an excuse for the government to insert itself into the marketplace,” Thomas Tauke, Verizon’s executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communication, told The Wall Street Journal. Verizon’s concerned that AT&T could bow to government pressure on net neutrality regulation in an effort to get the acquisition passed. Sprint thinks the deal is bad for other reasons, and one spokesperson said the carrier will “explain [that it thinks] this takeover of T-Mobile is bad for consumers, bad for innovation and bad for the economy,” and added that Sprint sees the deal as a “job killer” that will create a “vertically integrated duopoly.” Meanwhile Stephenson has argued that the deal — over time — will actually be a “net job grower,” and that there’s already plenty of competition in the U.S. wireless market. Similarly, Cohen of the CWA, has called the deal a “victory for broadband proponents.” Earlier this month the Department of Justice assured the public that it will perform an “in-depth” investigation of the deal.
The Federal Communications Commission put in place a limited set of net neutrality rules today, and early reports suggest people are not overly pleased. The “Open Internet” order was approved 3-2 in a vote that took place on Tuesday, with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and two more Democrats voting in support of the new rules. While the full details of the order are not yet available, the intended purpose of these rules is theoretically to ensure consumers are protected while not imposing too much control over ISPs and content providers. Preliminary reports suggest the rules are more stringent for wired Internet service providers, with wireless ISPs granted more space to work the system. More →
This morning while speaking in Boston, AT&T Mobility’s CEO Ralph de la Vega quipped that the net-neutrality agreement recently published by Verizon and Google was “good for the industry.” AT&T’s chief went on to say that the pact, “indicates that two companies from different industries can come together on a difficult issue.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation analyzed the joint proposal, saying: “It carves out exemptions from neutrality requirements for so-called ‘unlawful’ content, for wireless services, and for very vaguely-defined ‘additional online services.’ The definition of ‘reasonable network management’ is also problematically vague. As many, many, many have already pointed out, these exemptions threaten to completely undermine the stated goal of neutrality.” Whether you love or hate the Google/Verizon net-neutrality proposal, it has brought attention to this hot-button issue. An issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. What are your thoughts on the proposal? More →
Today, Google and Verizon released a joint statement outlining the parallel feelings the two companies foster towards net-neutrality. The statement contains seven points that both feel are crucial to keeping the world wide web open and accessible while fostering innovation, growth, and leadership in the United States. Google and Verizon support FCC enforcement of net-neutrality principles and published the memo as, “a suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers.” Hit the jump to read the statement in its entirety. More →
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Google and Verizon were, “nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege.” The Federal Communications Commission has been trying, and failing, to prevent such deals from occurring, thanks largely in part to an April court ruling that stated the FCC “lacked the authority” to prevent service providers from slowing or blocking certain connections. According to the Times’ source, Google would, “agree not to challenge Verizon’s ability to manage its broadband Internet network as it pleased,” if the deal is approved. Today, both Google and Verizon have refuted the New York Times’ story, calling it “entirely incorrect,” and saying that their, “goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation.” What is your stance on net-neutrality? More →
The net neutrality movement received a huge blow today when the US Court of Appeals sided with Comcast in its claim that the Federal Communications Commission lacks legal authority to demand ISPs shape internet traffic. Over the past few years, the FCC has grown increasingly concerned that ISPs would throttle connection speeds for things such as peer-to-peer file sharing and streaming media in order to dedicate more bandwidth to services it can better capitalize on. Comcast first challenged the FCC on net neutrality in 2008 when the FCC reprimanded Comcast for throttling the connections of clients who used a large amount of bandwidth through P2P networking.
As a rule of thumb, we at BGR are not in favor of government agencies (whether independent or not) imposing rules upon industries, although in this instance we’re actually finding ourselves disappointed if only for the fact we believe net neutrality must become a reality. More →
According to a widely circulating report by the Wall Street Journal, Google has apparently changed its stance on net neutrality and has asked internet service providers for a fast track for its content. The proposed plan, internally called OpenEdge, would place Google servers within each provider’s network allowing near immediate access to Google content. Such a request is contrary to Google’s previous net neutrality stance and opens the door for an internet where influential companies get fast access and everyone else gets slower access. The article at WSJ continues to elaborate upon this threat to net neutrality by citing how other companies, in particular Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon and prominent Internet scholars have also softened their stance on net neutrality. Though other companies and individuals may be wavering on net neutrality, Google has responded to the WSJ article and strongly reaffirmed its firm stance on net neutrality.
Image via ItsOurNet.org
Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine have announced plans to introduce a bipartisan bill addressing the controversial topic of net neutrality. The Internet Freedom Preservation Act, expected to be introduced in January 2009, will make it illegal for ISPs to block or slow down specific types of Internet traffic. Remember Comcast and their BitTorrent blocking debacle? Under this new law, their packet hijacking would be illegal, not just subject to some lame slap on the wrist by the FCC. This whole issue of Net neutrality will be rearing its ugly head again, pitting the ISP’s like AT&T and Verizon who claim they need to control content as part of their network management procedures against the content companies like Google and Microsoft who want their content delivered equally to everyone. We won’t even get into the whole issue of the ISPs double dipping by charging subscribers a monthly fee for their Internet connection and then charging content providers to have their content provided “faster” than those who don’t pay these extortion fees. The issue also divides the tech world with some saying “we can’t trust ISPs to deliver content freely so we need to enact legislation proactively” while others argue that “existing provisions already adequately handle the issue of net neutrality. If we enact a law too early, there may be unexpected negative consequences.” We will reserve judgment on this issue for now and turn it over to our readers. So what do you think, is net neutrality legislation a necessity at this point or is it better to wait until a clear threat to Internet freedom is present?