FCC Rules to Protect Open Internet

As expected, on Thursday a sharply divided US FCC ruled 3-2 to classify high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, therefore subjecting it to “common carrier” regulations like those which apply to telephone service. This ruling restores DSL Internet to its status prior to 2005 but now adds cable to this classification. It also restores essentially the same “open Internet” rules that had been in effect from 2010 until a court overturned them on a technicality in 2014.

Contrary to some cable lobbyist-fueled media hype, this is not a “government takeover of the Internet” like the overturned 1990’s Communications Decency Act, nor an “Obamacare for the Internet” analogous to the Reagan-era Lifeline telephone subsidy. There is no plan for an “Internet tax” but, surprisingly, there is also no effort to promote competition for wireline Internet service, such as through an unbundling requirement. Indeed, the FCC ruling merely preserves the status quo of a lightly regulated, corporate-controlled Internet duopoly.

Yahoo! Finance summary of the new ruling: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/fcc-adopts-net-neutrality-rules-to-ban-internet-discrimination-163703235.html

Xbiz notes that the FCC ruling could protect adult websites from ISP censorship: http://www.xbiz.com/news/web/191648

Gigaom details an egregious example of misleading ISP marketing which might come under FCC regulation: https://gigaom.com/2015/02/19/dont-let-att-mislead-you-about-its-29-privacy-fee/

Parental Control Software, Lenovo PCs With Possible Malware

Last week, news broke that certain models of Lenovo computers were shipped with the dangerous “Superfish” adware preinstalled at the factory. Further, researchers found that several brands of parental control software also contained the same weak root-level “Komodia” security certificate associated with Superfish.

Anyone who has a 2014 or 2015 Lenovo computer, or who has ever used any type of parental control software, should run a test with each installed browser using one of the test sites listed below to ensure that the Komodia certificate is not installed.

Filippo.io test here: https://filippo.io/Badfish/

Last Pass test, including detailed removal instructions, here: https://lastpass.com/superfish/

How Much the ISP Duopoly Costs Americans

I hope that everyone had a happy Valentine’s Day weekend. Valentine’s Day often results in a little fucking, but as DSL Reports notes, a recent study states that American ISP’s have also been fucking their customers, and not in a good way.

The study, from Point Topic, says that true market competition, such as the loop unbundling that the FCC won’t even consider, would cause the ISP’s to “lose” $2 billion monthly — in other words, that’s how much they are collectively overcharging Americans each month for barely adequate Internet access.

Article at https://secure.dslreports.com/shownews/Actual-Competition-Would-Cost-US-ISPs-2-Billion-Per-Month-132649

Related article about the history of ISP deregulation: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/02/big-telecom-tried-to-kill-net-neutrality-before-it-was-even-a-concept/

US Legislative Updates

On the Net Neutrality front, Republican FCC commissioner and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai claims that regulations protecting consumers from greedy, monopolistic ISP’s will embolden foreign dictators:

https://secure.dslreports.com/shownews/FCCs-Pai-US-Net-Neutrality-Rules-Encourage-Iran-Or-Something-132619

On the contentious issue of Internet taxes, the US Senate is considering a bipartisan plan to prohibit Internet taxes permanently, extending a series of temporary tax bans that have been in effect for years. This measure is of particular interest in light of the generally discredited claims that Net Neutrality consumer protection is a $17 billion tax grab:

https://gigaom.com/2015/02/11/senate-renews-plan-to-ban-internet-taxes-forever/

FCC to Propose Weak ISP Regulations

US FCC chairman and former cable TV lobbyist Tom Wheeler announced that he will propose that ISP’s be reclassified as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act. His plan supports Net Neutrailty, preventing ISP’s from blocking or throttling lawful content or charging consumers extra fees for receiving different kinds of content, but much like his earlier “hybrid” Net Neutrality proposal, it fails to protect consumers against monopolistic ISP pricing and other abuses. Specifically, even though most Americans are served by only two wireline Internet providers, Wheeler’s Title II plan would pretend that such a duopoly is competitive.

In sum, I believe that Wheeler has avoided the difficult work of promoting free-market competition in America’s broadband service, which is slow and overpriced compared with other industrial nations. Large corporations like Netflix and Amazon will be protected from abusive pricing practices, but consumers, once again, will be left to the whims of de facto unregulated monopolies.

More opinions:

http://www.infoworld.com/article/2880147/government/net-neutrality-forever-not-if-lawyers-can-stop-it.html?

FCC proposes no regulation of rates, no new tariffs, and no unbundling; telecoms are horrified by the burdensome regulation

http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/12/worst-case-scenario-why-the-cable-lobby-is-scared-of-becoming-a-utility/3/

[Harold Feld, an attorney and senior VP of the pro-Title II group Public Knowledge] agreed with the NCTA that local loop unbundling is highly unlikely even with Title II reclassification. The FCC could enforce unbundling on incumbent phone companies that offer DSL like it used to, but there’s a question of whether they should be considered “incumbent” in the case of broadband since cable has greater market share, Feld said. The FCC also decided to forbear from imposing unbundling rules on fiber in 2003 to encourage deployment, he said.

“On the whole, I agree with NCTA on this. Structural separation—modeled on the old DSL resale model or similar to what they do in France or England—is not a real risk for any ISP,” Feld said. “That’s unfortunate, in my view, but that’s the reality.”