NY Times Says FCC Should Reclassify Broadband Under Title II

from the about-time... dept

The big fight in the net neutrality battle is whether or not the FCC will agree to reclassify broadband under Title II, effectively arguing that it's a "common carrier" subject to certain specific rules. While earlier this year many insiders insisted this was politically impossible, over the last few months, it's become increasingly feasible from a political standpoint. That doesn't mean it will happen. In fact, it's probably still a longshot, in part because I can't remember the last time an FCC chairperson didn't seek "the easy way out" rather than making a tough decision and standing up for what's right. However, the latest to jump on the "reclassify" bandwagon is the NY Times editorial board, making a clear case for reclassification.
As a candidate in 2007, Mr. Obama rightly opposed letting telecommunications companies charge “different rates to different websites.” But Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the F.C.C. who was appointed by Mr. Obama, has proposed troubling rules that would allow cable and phone firms to enter into specials with companies like Facebook and Google as long as the contracts are “commercially reasonable.” These rules would effectively allow telecoms to divide the Internet into fast and slow lanes.

The commission has a better option. It can reclassify broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service, which would allow regulators to prohibit phone and cable companies like Verizon and Comcast from engaging in unjust or unreasonable discrimination against content. The F.C.C. wrongly classified broadband as an information service during the administration of George W. Bush, a decision that has limited the F.C.C.’s ability to protect consumers and smaller Internet firms.

Mr. Obama is sending Mr. Wheeler and his fellow commissioners a message. They should pay attention.
Of course, one editorial board opinion might not seem like that big of a deal, but (whether for good reasons or bad), the NYT's editorial board still holds a fair amount of sway within DC circles. In other words, this is at least another partial step forward in driving home the idea that reclassifying broadband is both the right thing to do and completely politically feasible.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Todd Shore (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 4:09pm

    As more land lines disappear and VOIP services become the norm, not just from companies such as Vonage and other SIP providers, but from Verizon and AT&T as well...

    As services such as Skype and their competitors subsume traffic from traditional PSTN services...

    As Twitter, Facebook, and newer generation services become the communications means of choice...

    INTERNET IS A TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICE!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Digger, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 7:24pm

    More than just Title II classification is needed.

    Not only do all the backbone and ISP operators need to have their assets and operations reclassified as Class II, there needs to be an enforced split between content creators and content deliverers.

    ie - Cable companies, internet backbone operators and ISPs cannot own / operate in any way shape or form content creation companies, like music, movie, television, etc...

    Time/Warner, NBC/Universal, Sony, etc - any company that makes any kind of mass consumed media, would have to be 100% financially isolated from the delivery industry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 7:52pm

    Title II classification could stand a good chance. It's basically AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and other last mile ISPs against the rest of the internet.

    There's a lot more Googles, NYTs, TechDirts, Netflixes, and Level3s out there than last mile ISPs. A lot more. Not to mention it's what customers of these services want, ie the voters.

    I guess we'll see how much of a lobbyist Tom Wheeler still is. I'm betting he takes major kickbacks from last mile ISPs and goes with "commercially reasonable" slow lanes.

    Then there will be a huge uproar from everyone who's not a last mile ISP. Which is basically the rest of the world. Eventually causing the reversal of Tom Wheeler's slow lane internet policy.

    Not that he'll care, because he'll be working at his new job at Comcast or Verizon by that time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:37pm

    Re:

    Not to mention it's what customers of these services want, ie the voters.

    There is a point where the costs of making it happen properly may be beyond what the last mile companies are willing to do. AS Digger said, some people want to get the last mile companies out of all other forms of content delivery and creation, but being a naked last mile ISP may not be a high enough return business for the companies to want to stay in it.

    Net Neutrality isn't a simple idea, as much as those who agressively support it would like to make it out to be. They are wrapping lots of other things in there, and it's not easy or cheap to get it all done.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    TestPilotDummy, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 1:22am

    Abolish the FCC lol

    I throw this possibility out.

    Why have POTUS run the FCC?

    Let the PEOPLE VOTE

    Then, IN CONJUNCTION WITH PEOPLE'S VOTE, FCC ENGINEERS WORK OUT BEST USE OF SPECTRUM IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.

    PERIOD

    NO OBAMAFONE

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 3:41am

    Re: Re:

    We're not asking for it. as consumers, we're demanding it. Because the system in the US is so fundamentally broken that perhaps it would be easier to nationalise the interconnects between the end user and the CDNs and other interconnectors, and force competition that way.

    After all, if so many billions of dollars are being spent on upgrading the infrastructure, why are only around 10% of the national populace seeing the effects? I understand that it will be hard for states like Wyoming and Texas to cover the whole state with broadband-capable network, but the point remains that the broadband capacity the US has is woefully inadequate for, well, anything in the modern age.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 5:44am

    Re: Re:

    Tow points.
    1) Giving final mile ISPs control over what web sites their customers can use only helps them solve the problem that the Internet is eating into their cable business.
    2) If the existing companies will not provide the service in rural areas then let someone else do it. The Interview with Chris Conder of the Broadband for Rural North show what is possible. The community is running 1 gigabit fiber to the home over.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ooops.... that should be two.
    (Spell check does not detect transpositions that make a valid word).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 16th, 2014 @ 6:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    B4RN is really cool and all, but if you read their business plan, page 15, you see where they aren't any better than most other ISPs:

    http://b4rn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/B4RN-Business-Plan-v5-2.pdf

    they are forecasting 3200 properties. They have created 12 nodes, each connected by 10 gig (redundant). That means that each head end services on average 266 customers. So their 1 gig connections really aren't 1 gig, they are on average about 40 meg. Now, nothing to sneeze at, but it's a 26 times over sell on their promised bandwidth. If they actually provided full 1 gig 100% of the time, you would assume the costs would be a number of times more expensive.

    Also, their physical installation methods are advantageous because they are basically getting free rights to install on land that others would have to pay for. This is pretty much unfair competition, don't you think?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 7:08am

    common carrier taxes

    if they reclassify - does that mean there will suddenly be all those obscure taxes? right now my phone service is around $10 - but then there is $90 in obscure taxes. ok, i exaggerate - a bit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Ben (profile), Aug 16th, 2014 @ 7:44am

    Consumer or product

    I think the think most of us are missing is that we are no longer costumers. In the age of mass date we are the product, and these companies now have the "right" to make as much money as they can selling us to the other large content companies. For me this is what this whole thing is now about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re:

    Is 911 emergency service included in the standard package, or is that an extra per minute charge, and does that apply to the monthly cap? Equipment maintenance is not free and someone has to pay for the service.

    What is a high enough return ... 10%? What constitutes gouging?

    Net neutrality is a simple concept, some have difficulty understanding it.

    Its not easy or cheap even when heavily subsidized. Sounds like you are advocating for title II, regulate it as a utility.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Alien Rebel (profile), Aug 16th, 2014 @ 11:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks for the link, I found the B4RN / Broadband for Rural North Ltd. business plan very worth my time to read. It describes an effort being made to bring fiberoptic broadband to some of the most rural, hardest to wire residents in the UK. It also provides some background on the wider campaign of making next-generation broadband universal throughout the UK.

    So actually, what this document screams very loudly is just how much of a contrast there is between what's happening in the UK, where they are in effect treating broadband as a utility, and the suckiness of broadband here in the US. Regarding B4RN's model of community-based non-profits having an unfair advantage in right-of-way access, that's a standard argument used by supporters of ALEC-sponsored state legislation to inhibit municipal broadband, and enshrine the profits of the major telecoms. As I'm not a believer in the holiness of the free market, might I suggest that if for-profit telecoms can't serve people better than municipalities, they should get the fuck out of the way.

    But by all means, post more links to material like this; people around here might start to think you're a nice guy.

    ---

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 12:36pm

    Re: More than just Title II classification is needed.

    Decades ago movie studios use to own theatre chains. The government said this was an anti-trust violation and broke them up. There's no reason ISPs should be treated any differently.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 12:42pm

    Of course, one editorial board opinion might not seem like that big of a deal, but (whether for good reasons or bad), the NYT's editorial board still holds a fair amount of sway within DC circles.

    The NY Times is practically the high priest of the Cult of the Savvy, so this is a sign (from on high) that reclassification is reasonable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 16th, 2014 @ 7:48pm

    Re: common carrier taxes

    No. Those taxes aren't related to common carrier status, but targeted specifically to telephone service.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 16th, 2014 @ 10:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks. I agree their business plan is interesting, but it's something that is rarely workable. Most land owners are not generally willing to give up their rights "for free".

    Now, what would be interesting is if land owners gave right of way for a larger, shared pipe to be installed for free so that all potential providers could use it. The whole story points out why (in the UK at least) it's hard for commercial companies to make a true impact in getting higher speed internet into place. The costs related to "doing it right" are off the charts, and that would reflect in significantly higher costs.

    If muni broadband works only because major concessions are made, then it's perhaps time instead to look at fixing the problem, instead of creating an unfair competitive situation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2014 @ 5:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If muni broadband works only because major concessions are made, then it's perhaps time instead to look at fixing the problem, instead of creating an unfair competitive situation.

    It was not municipal broadband because:-
    1) It is a rural installation, not and urban or suburban installation.
    2) No government institution (municipal authority) is involved in providing and running the service, or subsidizing its construction.

    As to unfair competition, there is none when people find a way of obtaining the service they need at their own expense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Alien Rebel (profile), Aug 17th, 2014 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Whatever; you should quit while you're behind. The example of B4RN clearly demonstrates the limits of what can be delivered by private corporations pursuing profits, and where local communities and governments can step in to fill critical unmet needs. It shows how the British government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is putting in motion a robust, organized effort to bring next generation broadband to the majority of its citizens, something shamefully lacking in the U.S. It shows that good things happen when broadband is widely acknowledged to be a vital utility.

    But OK, let's unpack some of your stuff just for laughs.

    ". . their business plan, . . something that is rarely workable."

    There's nothing particularly unique about B4RN's plan, so you need to provide details to support that statement. Nonprofit development corporations come in all shapes and sizes; they do stuff ranging from infrastructure improvements, to building industrial parks and ball fields. In this instance, it's fiberoptic to homes. Government grants, tax breaks, providing services in leu of cash reimbursements, enlisting volunteers from the community, are all not new things.

    ". . what would be interesting is if land owners gave right of way for a larger, shared pipe to be installed for free so that all potential providers could use it."

    Fascinating. But please show me where private corporations are doing this. Perhaps I've been misinformed, and Verizon, COMCAST, and other service providers are competing with one another by simply using the big pipes laid by whoever was first to a locality. If that's not happening, then it was a nice try at moving the goal posts for B4RN.

    "The whole story points out why (in the UK at least) it's hard for commercial companies to make a true impact in getting higher speed internet into place."

    A nonsensical statement, in light of what the BDUK is doing, how its partnerships with major telecoms are rapidly building out broadband. The story does point out that laying fiberoptic to rural communities faces all the usual problems related to distance and density. Since private corporations see no profit potential, and therefore have no plans to service B4RN's rural communities any time soon, there are no issues concerning competition; so I hope you didn't mean to suggest that B4RN is in any way preventing for-profit corporations from laying broadband in places they have no intention of servicing anyhow, because that would be kinda stupid.

    "If muni broadband works only because major concessions are made, then it's perhaps time instead to look at fixing the problem, instead of creating an unfair competitive situation."

    Concessions are not the only means by which munis can succeed, not by a long shot; but you are so right that there's a big problem fueling the appeal and financial viability of munis; namely the crappy service provided by the major U.S. telecoms. Yeah, we oughta fix that.





    ---

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 17th, 2014 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "instead of creating an unfair competitive situation"

    as if one did not already exist ... wow.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 17th, 2014 @ 5:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    There's nothing particularly unique about B4RN's plan, so you need to provide details to support that statement.

    Quite simply, their business plan falls apart if they aren't getting passage for free. If they were paying passage and cabling in the same manner that commercial entities are forced to do, their own admission is that the plan does not work.

    The plan is based on obtaining an advantage that puts them in a place commercial companies are not going to be, creating an unfair business advantage.

    But please show me where private corporations are doing this.

    They are not. They are paying the high costs to install their own cabling along the right of ways as pointed out, and thus have nothing to share.

    Since private corporations see no profit potential, and therefore have no plans to service B4RN's rural communities any time soon, there are no issues concerning competition;

    if the private companies could install fiber for 5 pounds a meter, they would be all over it like a dirty shirt. It would be a profitable business. However, they are restricted on how they can install, it's very expensive.

    Concessions are not the only means by which munis can succeed, not by a long shot;

    Given an equal and level playing field, the commercial companies would be in there making the muni much less desirable. That the commercial operators have to spent many more times over to install similar service keeps them from doing it.

    namely the crappy service provided by the major U.S. telecoms

    yes, because the crappy service from US telecoms is keeping the UK from getting wired, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 18th, 2014 @ 6:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    There's nothing particularly unique about B4RN's plan, so you need to provide details to support that statement.


    Quite simply, their business plan falls apart if they aren't getting passage for free. If they were paying passage and cabling in the same manner that commercial entities are forced to do, their own admission is that the plan does not work.

    The plan is based on obtaining an advantage that puts them in a place commercial companies are not going to be, creating an unfair business advantage.


    B4RN are not getting the ROW free because of some mandate, and the existing ISPs are not prohibited from persuading landowners to let them use RsOW for free. What's special about B4RN is that they're paying with internet access rather than cash up front, and the landowners are willing to trust them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Alien Rebel (profile), Aug 18th, 2014 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, this discussion has run its course. B4RN is doing just fine (1)(2) so reality proves your theory on its business model to be utter nonsense. In addition, not only is B4RN a mostly ordinary community non-profit, it's just one of a multitude of local entities that have been setup within the BDUK program (3) according to its established standards and guidelines, in which community-based providers are an essential feature.(4)(5)

    In light of this, your sales pitch using B4RN as an example of municipal broadband being something harmful or "unfair" becomes an amazing display of either complete ignorance or willful disregard for how the British system is organized.

    Lobbyists and salespeople in general all seem to share the psychopathic quality of having little capacity to feel shame, embarrassment, or remorse, so I don't expect you'll care much about being so ridiculously wrong in public, or in having presented yourself as such a magnificent exhibit 'A' for showing what's wrong with the U.S. broadband industry. Here, telecoms use armies of lobbyists to sell the your same pitch, act through ALEC to kill municipal broadband, sue the FCC, and fight net neutrality in order to build out their monopoly powers. What are they doing in the UK? Treating next generation broadband as a vital utility and building it out to as many citizens as they can reach.
    -------

    (1) Broadband for the Rural North website: b4rn.org.uk

    (2) SuperfastLancashire.com (Broadband district in which B4RN resides)

    (3) gov.uk website: Guidance-Broadband Delivery UK- Details of the plan to achieve a transformation in broadband in the UK by 2015.

    (4) Factsheet-Organisational & Legal Structures
    for setting up Community Broadband Organisations (PDF)
    Document from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)

    (5) Broadband Delivery Programme: Delivery Model (PDF) Document from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)

    ---

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.