As reported in the Washington Post ...

"A majority of the Federal Communications Commission has concluded that cable operator Comcast unlawfully disrupted the transfer of certain digital video files, affirming the government's right to regulate how Internet companies manage Web traffic."

"Three commissioners on the five-member FCC have signed off on an order that finds Comcast violated federal rules by purposely slowing the transmission of video files shared among users of the application BitTorrent."

"Comcast has said it delayed the files to assure that enough bandwidth remained available for other users on its network. But the company did not disclose its practices until public interest groups and the video-sharing site complained to the FCC, alleging that the company had set itself up to be a secret gatekeeper of content, picking and choosing which applications to favor."

Original Blog Entry ...

The question…

Do you want your Internet Services bundled and billed in the same manner that your current telephone and cable providers now use when providing your existing service?

A simple, easy to understand question. No more, no less.

Connectivity is a commodity...

Internet connectivity is a commodity. There is essentially very little difference between Internet access provided by your wireline provider, wireless provider or your cable/satellite provider. In each instance your computer is connected to the Internet.

And you already are paying...

You have already paid for your computer equipment, modem and the connection. You are already being billed by the common carriers depending on whether or not you are using dial-up, DSL, cable or T-1 services. Your monthly bill already reflects the connection speed. At the other end, your content provider is paying the same expenses: computer, connection and bandwidth.

So why should the common carriers insert another complex regulatory structure in the transaction in order to be charge you by the type of service you are using: download audio or video content, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone, e-mail or simple web browsing? All in the guise of improving service and, laughably, lowering connection costs.

The electronic toll-taker...

But that is exactly what they want to do. They want to leverage your in-home connection into a gateway guarded by their toll-booth – to make you pay-and-pay-and pay.

Bogus benefits...

Their argument that video down-loaders suck-up all the bandwidth and reduce service quality for everyone is mostly bogus… especially in the era of fiber-optic cable.

Their claim that charging for e-mail will reduce unwanted SPAM may be partly true, but do you want to pay extra to insure that your messages are delivered faster than those paying little or nothing for their services.

Do you want to see Internet innovation die as multi-layer Web 2.0 mash-ups are charged by the type of audio-visual content? Or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) be turned into just another tariffed common carrier service? 

Competing on chaos….

Historically, the common carriers have competed mostly on an overly complex set of service levels which present an almost incomprehensible series of time ranges, bonuses, service levels and speeds which serves to mystify the  communications professional as well as the average consumer.

One can plainly see what they have done with text messaging; the telephone version of instant messaging. The various text programs seem benign and affordable. But, and its a big but, exceed your limits and you can generate a $5000 telephone bill in a single month. Ask any of the parents who did not understand what "premium texting" meant in terms of service level. Where a normal text message can cost ten to twenty cents, premium text messages can be billed by third-party content providers at $1, $2 or even $5 per message. All collected by the telephone company for their percentage. Like a croupier at the craps table dragging in the house percentage. Or perhaps like a loan shark with his vigorish (Yiddish for the amount a bookmaker or loan shark charges for their services).

No sympathy here...

When the parents of teenagers recover somewhat from the shock of a multi-thousand dollar bill, they are in for a very unpleasant experience should they ask their carrier for some form of charge mitigation -- and are informed that maybe a fifty-percent discount may be arranged.

Enter a public champion...

Author of Internet Freedom Preservation Act Speaks at FCC Hearing in Boston

Today, February 25, 2008, Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, stood up for all consumers when he delivered the following prepared remarks at the Federal Communications Commission hearing on Internet freedom in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Just over 20 years ago, in October of 1987, I chaired a field hearing of the then-Telecommunications and Finance Subcommittee here in Massachusetts. FCC Chairman Dennis Patrick was the lead witness and the issue was his proposal to levy per-minute access charges on computer users. His argument at the time was that because emerging online services like CompuServe and Prodigy accessed the network in the same way AT&T and MCI did, computer users should foot the bill the same way long distance phone users did. He testified that if such fees were assessed then it might help lower long distance rates by…..a whopping one percent.

“I battled against this short-sighted proposal. I contended that higher, per minute charges would dramatically reduce the use of electronic information services, crippling an infant industry. I stipulated that for education and health care and innovation, we needed to treat this nascent information industry as special and nurture it. And even though AT&T and the other carriers were powerful foes compared to the embryonic information industry, my view prevailed at the Commission."

“As a result, when Congress voted a few years later to permit the commercialization of the Internet, providers were able to offer consumers flat-rate pricing for accessing the Internet, and consumer use and innovation flourished. No wonder that former FCC Chairman Bill Kennard has said that this decision was the single most important decision in fostering the growth of the Internet."

“I am pleased therefore that the Commission has returned to Massachusetts to examine contemporary issues in the development of the Internet. As you analyze the issues before you today, I want to briefly suggest a few thoughts to keep in mind."

First, let me underscore that the Internet is as much mine and yours as it is Verizon’s, AT&T’s or Comcast’s. Please keep front and center in your examination the needs and wishes of the community of users rather than a small coterie of carriers."

Separating content from transmission...

“Much like the policy debate over access charges on information services at the FCC two decades ago – the key question for safeguarding the Internet is recognition that the nature of the Net is really not about services provided by carriers themselves. They don’t provide ‘Internet services’ – they provide broadband access to the Internet. There’s a difference between the two and this distinction is vital in my view in order to ascertain the proper role for the FCC and for the carriers themselves going forward.

Tools: for deep-packet mining and throttling...

If we emphasize unduly the present desires by broadband network providers to utilize certain network management tools, it runs the risk of conceding all-too-readily that these network providers have a genuine role in managing – and in so doing, constraining -- our broadband access to the Internet. I understand that there may be transitional issues until bandwidth increases sufficiently, but the Commission should be wary about the premise posed by any carrier’s contention of the need for a significant network management position."

“Perhaps if we had multiple competitors or super-high bandwidth to residential consumers this wouldn’t be an issue. The problem today is that we have neither sufficient competition nor affordable, truly high-speed access to the Internet. I fully support and celebrate efforts by industry participants to deliver ever higher bandwidth speeds to consumers and have battled in Washington to ensure that policies are in place to make sure these key infrastructure assets are deployed over time to all neighborhoods in a given community.

If the lack of bandwidth is plaguing network operations and posing policy issues needlessly, then the Commission would do well to re-examine broadband policies with a goal of jump-starting competition. Through broadband competition, consumers can reap the benefits of lower prices, higher speeds, and enhanced service quality. Certainly, wireless policy, universal service mechanisms, and other tools can also promote high-speed broadband deployment and affordability, but I continue to believe that competition should be our preferred policy for alleviating the current broadband policy issues of speed and affordability."

“In the interim, a broadband network provider will undoubtedly express a reasonable need today to manage the network to address congestion caused by insufficient bandwidth. But such intercession into a user’s access to the Internet should not result in the outright blocking of political speech or other content, or the transformation of BitTorrent into ‘Bit Trickle.’ That’s a problematic result whether it is purposeful or purely circumstantial. We must insist on reasonable measures and today’s hearing will give you an opportunity to assess whether reasonable approaches are being employed."

Commercial = money-making...

“Finally, the Commission should examine these issues not only to discern corporate practice and intent for reasonableness -- but also to ascertain whether these actions truly are temporary or transitory due to the dearth of bandwidth, or instead, managerial creations of the moment that the carriers may find useful and make permanent for non-networking, commercial reasons."

While carriers will assert the need to manage networks in their current state of evolution, we need to remember that Internet freedoms are most properly thought of as consumer-centric. Such freedoms extend to use of the Net for any lawful purpose."

“The beauty of the Internet is its wonderfully chaotic, ever evolving nature. “Its ability to re-invent itself every year. "

“The promise for the future is the Net’s ability to enhance education, health care delivery, celebrate free speech, mitigate against the problems caused by concentration in traditional media, foster innovation, job creation, and spur economic growth."

Representative Markey is one hundred percent "spot on" when it comes to his enthusiasm for the wonders of the Internet and his enlightened stance on keeping the traditional gate-keepers from establishing toll-booths along the Internet Information Highway.

Enter the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) ...

Like many government agencies, it is hard to determine the true motivation of FCC rulings as they walk a fine line between consumer watchdog, unofficial booster of the American communications industry and an instrument of the Executive branch which openly panders to special interests. Like all agencies of the Administration, they must listen to lawmakers like Representative Markey and follow the dictates on Congress.

However, as we have seen in the past, the special interests through their lobbying activities and campaign funding are able to circumvent almost all consumer-oriented legislation unless the public rises to the challenge and beats them back. Often by contacting their elected officials and threatening to withhold their vote -- a vote necessary to keep the politicians in their cushy, powerful and profitable positions.

Will the FCC continue to play games with the public?

In the past the FCC was willing to declare that a zipcode had broadband access if just one user in that zipcode has access to a high-speed connection. Which provided a misleading picture to the government, the regulators, Congress and the public. Now Congress is willing to put forth legislation dealing with the problems of broadband accessibility and costs.

The coming fight...

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the big-money boys, the powerful carriers with their lobbyists and the telecommunications unions with their dollars will be trying to negotiate legislation and Agency oversight to benefit themselves rather than the public.

Unfortunately some legislators may fall-in with the carriers and the telecommunications unions for no other reason that increased tariffs result in increased government revenue. Anybody who has studied their telephone, wireless or cable bill will be aware of the various taxes and fees that are imposed by the local, state and federal government.

In fact the City of Los Angeles flat-out lied to its constituents by putting forth a ballot proposition which was mislabeled as a "tax reduction" when in fact it legislation creating a slightly reduced 9% tax on all telecommunications in the City when a judge ruled that the present tax of 10% was probably illegal. The consumers got stiffed by the Los Angeles officials who are now planning to expand such deceptive ballot propositions to fund public safety-related items which should be given first priority in the City's budget.

And the deceptions happen at all levels of government.

Only a vigilant population with informed citizens can battle against this type of blatant power and money grab.

What can YOU do?

Do not let the common carriers ride roughshod over the consumer by imposing service-based charges over and above what you are paying for connectivity and speed.

Let your elected officials know that the convoluted tiered tariff system died with the old telephone and wireless systems and that Internet should be free of all charges based on content type or size.

Make it known that we pay for our computers, our software, our connections based on type and speed...and the content from those who make content available. And that the common carriers need to curb their greed and provide superior services before being allowed to charge extra for bandwidth which is clearly inferior to most modern nations.

Support those politicians who support an open Internet and who are willing to stand up to greedy common carriers. If these carriers want to introduce premium services for premium pricing, let them build the new services and leave the older Internet infrastructure billing alone.

-- steve

Quote of the day: Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn't block traffic. - Dan Rather

A reminder from a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius


2/25/08 Statements From FCC En Banc Hearing on Broadband Network Management Practices, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Martin: Acrobat
Copps: Word | Acrobat
Adelstein: Word | Acrobat

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS