Wireless

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
ctia, fcc, net neutrality, open internet, title ii, wireless

Companies:
ctia



Wireless Providers Desperate Not To Be Subject To Net Neutrality Rules

from the because-of-course dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about FCC boss Tom Wheeler giving a speech at CTIA (the lobbying organization for the wireless industry, which Wheeler used to run many years ago) in which he hinted at plans to crack down on anti-competitive behaviors by the industry. He even indicated that the FCC may finally be considering the idea that any net neutrality regulations should apply to wireless as well. As you may recall, the 2010 open internet rules (the ones mostly struck down by an appeals court back in February) never applied to wireless -- and the wireless providers would desperately like to keep it that way.

A little birdie attending the CTIA show sent over this flier, noting that it's being dumped everywhere around the conference, with a focus on places where tech company folks may be lingering.
If you can't see it, it's an awkwardly worded attempt to argue repeatedly that wireless should not be subject to any net neutrality rules because "wireless is different." Of course, most of the "differences" can be summed up as "we have much more limited capacity, and there's a lot more high-bandwidth traffic moving to wireless, so please, please, please let us block the kind of traffic we can't shakedown with a profitable tollbooth."

It's true that there are some different demands and limitations on wireless networks, but none of that supports the idea that it should be able to break neutrality and pick winners and losers. In fact, since so much more traffic is moving to wireless networks and bandwidth capacity has been improving, it seems like better reasons to subject wireless carriers to net neutrality rules. Oh, and in case you're wondering, this isn't even an issue of reclassifying from Title I to Title II. Most mobile operators already are under Title II, and, contrary to what the wired broadband guys will tell you, it hasn't hurt investment in that space.

Of course, it seems rather silly and tone deaf for the wireless operators to be pushing this on the tech folks at CTIA's own conference. The tech industry clearly supports a more open and free internet, with fewer tollbooths and discrimination. Pitching them that wireless is somehow "different" isn't likely to win any fans. And that's doubly true considering that many in the tech industry still clearly remember the "bad old days," prior to the iPhone and Android when the only way to get your app on a phone was to have a mobile operator agree to let it be on the phone. Those were the days where people made a big business out of "introducing" startups to the mobile operators, so they could beg, plead and eventually pay their way onto a phone. Those weren't good days for innovation on the phone. While the mobile operators haven't yet been able to go back to that sort of tollbooth, if they had the power to they would. It was the tech industry that broke down those walled gardens, and you'd better believe the operators would love to have them back, even as the broken down walls made their phones and services more valuable.

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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 3:17pm

    Hype over "limitations"

    "It's true that there are some different demands and limitations on wireless networks..."

    More like, "... some different demands and potential limitations..."; a few recent pieces have highlighted the fact there's still a net surplus of wireless bandwidth, and while some claim dire shortfall projections, it's much more likely that innovation will continue to boost capacity, and the surplus will remain.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 4:44pm

      Re: Hype over "limitations"

      The claims on the flier could very well be true, but the simple fact is that, if they are, it's a result of the mobile network's "need" to match up to fixed network standards.
      People started having broadband at home and mobile providers sought to create a market getting them the same sort of service elsewhere. Step by step, mobile bandwidth grew, but then the same providers wanted to not have to pony up the traffic volume and came up with data caps, throttling, you name it.
      And so you're right: there most likely is a fabricated surplus of wireless bandwidth and the technology is only trending up.
      And to pretend that the flier's claim only apply to mobile networks is ridiculous. The same devices that are at the root of those claims also include Wi-Fi, so that's about half of their claimed "difference" out the window.
      The rest is strained at best. "Unique Quality of Service Demads"! "Network Capacity Challenges"! And what the hell does "Mobile Traffic Demands Change" mean?!
      I also like how the conclusion brings up "negative technical impact on consumer's mobile broadband services". Throttling doesn't? Data caps don't?

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

      • icon
        Whatever (profile), 14 Sep 2014 @ 3:36am

        Re: Re: Hype over "limitations"

        The limitations on broadband wireless are real enough. There is only so much data that fits into so much frequency range, plain and simple. Unless there is some some of magic revolution that changes that basic fact, then wireless has limitations.

        The wireless operators do what they can do, adding tower sites to try to make more bandwidth available. There are pretty big limitations though. Plenty of people go all NIMBY when it comes to tower installations, and as a result the resource is in fact limited.

        Just like wired internet ISPs, the wireless business is facing the basic problem of people demanding to do much more with their phones than before, and that much more includes data intensive streaming and other similar services which can really clog a single tower up pretty good. I have posted the numbers before it doesn't really take more than a few "power" users to make everyone else suffer.

        So the problem is this: the idea of net neutrality is fine, but in a situation where you have a limited resource, the effects of true net neutrality may mean a shortage of connectivity for everyone. Is it better to hard cap certain types of bandwidth use (say streaming or large downloads) in order for everyone else to have reasonable use? Net neutrality would preclude this, which would means bigger problems.

        The usual solutions? Hard data caps. Low data caps. Daily data limits. Those are the only alternatives that are "neutral" but still going to somewhat pick winners and losers because mobile streaming apps are likely to hit the caps repeatedly and cause problems.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2014 @ 8:19am

          Re: Re: Re: Hype over "limitations"

          There is only so much data that fits into so much frequency range, plain and simple. Unless there is some some of magic revolution that changes that basic fact, then wireless has limitations.

          The capacity of a cellular wireless system is also dependent on cell size, replace one larger cell with 4 smaller ones and you have increased the capacity by 4, (assuming an even spread of demand).

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

          • icon
            Whatever (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 2:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hype over "limitations"

            It hits the NIMBY issue - nobody wants MORE cell towers and expanding existing ones is not always possible. Cell companies are quickly reaching the saturation point in some cities where it's almost impossible to get another installation done.

            So yeah, the resource is finite, at least for now.

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

            • identicon
              Andrew D. Todd, 15 Sep 2014 @ 3:36am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hype over "limitations"

              A "mini-cellphone tower," with a range of, say, two hundred feet, would look pretty much like a W-Fi rout4er. It would join the assorted boxes and cables already mounted on telephone poles by various different entities, or it could be attached to street lamps, traffic signals, etc.

              Your argument is essentially one of "freight trains are a mile long, ergo a private automobile has to be a mile long." That sounds like something out of Monty Python.

              Of course the cellphone makers are beginning to pick up on the concept, first pioneered in Africa, that a cellphone can be designed to take multiple competing SIM cards, or hardware keys, and thus be plugged into multiple competing cellphone networks. As applied to the United States, this means adding WfFi capability, to use wherever a Wi-Fi signal is available.

              http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-09-08/wi-fi-should-scare-the-hell-out-of-verizon -and-at-and-t

              A basic limiting factor is that using a computer tends to compete for visual attention with locomotion. Someone doing something fairly attention-intensive on his computer needs a place to sit down. In a congested urban environment, you generally cannot sit down for free, and the places which sell somewhere to sit down, typically restaurants, will naturally compete with each other by installing WiFi. Of course, there will be the ongoing negotiations about how big a purchase buys how much sit-down time, but that is another matter.

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

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 5:41am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hype over "limitations"

              It hits the NIMBY issue

              You've mentioned that a couple of times, but a full on stand alone cell phone tower is no worse than a street light. Do you have any references about substantial objections to towers?

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

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 14 Sep 2014 @ 5:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: Hype over "limitations"

          So the problem is this: the idea of net neutrality is fine, but in a situation where you have a limited resource, the effects of true net neutrality may mean a shortage of connectivity for everyone. Is it better to hard cap certain types of bandwidth use (say streaming or large downloads) in order for everyone else to have reasonable use? Net neutrality would preclude this, which would means bigger problems.

          I don't know what definition of neutrality you're using; there are a few. I wouldn't see a problem with throttling certain types of traffic in a neutral fashion when the network is at or close to saturation. The problem is if they do something like throttle Netflix but not some other video service that's paid them, or a service they run themselves.

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

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 10:24am

          Re: Re: Re: Hype over "limitations"

          "Is it better to hard cap certain types of bandwidth use (say streaming or large downloads) in order for everyone else to have reasonable use? Net neutrality would preclude this, which would means bigger problems."

          The principle of net neutrality would certainly not preclude this. It does not preclude traffic shaping for network management. What it precludes is playing favorites: if you're going to limit streaming video, for example, you have to limit it equally without regard for the source of it. You can't do something like accept payment from, say, Netflix (or give a pass to the telecom's own streaming services) to let them escape the limit.

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

  • icon
    Dave Cortright (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 3:52pm

    The electromagnetic spectrum belongs to the public

    An important point Mike fails to make here is the key difference between wired and wireless is that the wireless "medium"—the electromagnetic spectrum—belongs to the public. The FCC leases certain bands to private companies with the contractual expectation that they use them for the public benefit. If certain companies don't want to play by the rules imposed, then fine. You lose your license and your spectrum will be reallocated to someone who will be more than happy to comply. It's nothing personal; it's just business.

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 3:53pm

    It was the tech industry that broke down those walled gardens, and you'd better believe the operators would love to have them back, even as the broken down walls made their phones and services more valuable.

    It was Android that broke down the walled gardens. The iPhone just replaces the carrier's garden with Apple's, just as onerous and just as repugnant, and people are catching on.

    Last I checked, Android had (IIRC) something around 80% market share, and this after Apple's significant first-mover advantage. It's history repeating itself; Apple has made the exact same mistake in the 2010s that they made in the 1980s: being control freaks that are actively hostile to "platform" status and the development of a robust, external ecosystem of developers. And once again, they created a great system and a well-designed OS, and then threw it all away once a wiser competitor showed up and made it a similar system with lower barriers to entry for users and developers alike.

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

  • icon
    Inwoods (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 4:45pm

    Wireless is "different."

    But not different enough that it can't stand in for Verizon's commitment to supply broadband to rural areas. Then it is obviously equal to a wired connection in every way.

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

  • identicon
    TestPilotDummy, 12 Sep 2014 @ 5:06pm

    FCC again? Told ya so

    Get them out of the mouth of POTUS and place the FCC engineering agenda under the control of the voter in the public interest.

    You want to generate a bunch of crap frequencies and jam ham signals because of your filtering failures with Broadband over powerlines? Fine let the people vote.

    You want the FCC to NOT control your cat5 cables, Fiber optic cables, twisted pairs, and vaults? Fine let the people vote.

    Get that COMMON CORE out of schools and TEACH electronics, auto shop, agriculture, and the US Constitution and Bill of rights in conjunction with justice instead!

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

  • icon
    saulgoode (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 5:36pm

    Fon'

    The tech industry clearly supports a more open and free internet, with fewer tollbooths and discrimination. Pitching them that wireless is somehow "different" isn't likely to win any fans.

    Yet I seem to recall Google teaming up with Verizon a couple years back to lobby this same

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

  • icon
    R.H. (profile), 12 Sep 2014 @ 7:03pm

    Mobile Provider Classification

    Most mobile operators already are under Title II
    I don't know why I haven't heard this point before. Of course mobile providers are under Title II since they're providing telephone service. They seem to be making money hand over fist. Why isn't anyone breaking down the wired ISP's points about not being able to improve their networks under Title II by pointing at the mobile providers? Am I missing something important?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2014 @ 5:57am

      Re: Mobile Provider Classification

      Am I missing something important?

      Yes, other than DSL providers, broadband providers are doing so over an infrastructure built to supply cable T.V. They are now realizing that the their Broadband business id beginning to replace their cable business, rather than being a nice little earner that could be packaged with it. These providers are used to providing packages that maximize their cable TV income, and want to be able to do the same with broadband, such as get Netflix with this cable TV package, which is likely to be the only way to sell cable TV alongside a high speed Internet in the future.
      When people can get videos on demand, fixed schedule, take what we give you when we give you it cable looks like a poor choice.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Sep 2014 @ 10:27pm

    To be 100% fair, there's at least a modicum of legitimate reasoning when it comes to wireless networking at the present time.

    I say a modicum because that beign the reason to slow down certain kinds of traffic is a hugely bullshit reason.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2014 @ 7:41am

    It irks me to ask: is it possible that Tom Wheeler isn't a dingo?

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

    • icon
      GEMont (profile), 15 Sep 2014 @ 9:02am

      Re:

      " is it possible that Tom Wheeler isn't a dingo? "

      Well of course it's possible.

      But so are ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot(s), Honest Politicians, Honest Banksters, and a whole slew of other highly improbable things.

      Mind you, I think everything on that list above is far more likely than Mister Wheeler being honestly concerned with protecting Net Neutrality.

      I think he was hired for the job, for the same reason that Obama was hired to be POTUS - because he knows how to sound sincere and keep the rabble at bay, so his employers' real goal of screwing people over can take place undisturbed behind closed doors.

      A Dingo, by any other name, would sound as sincere.

      ---

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

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 14 Sep 2014 @ 4:57am

    A Comparison with the Physical World

    A couple of days ago, I walked out of my apartment, walked across the apartment complex's parking lot, to a blue United States Postal Service mailbox, and deposited a letter containing a check in the mailbox. No one waylaid me, or attempted to collect a percentage on the value of the letter. I then walked along the public sidewalk to Walgreen's, where I bought some groceries, including about three gallons of beverages. I loaded my groceries on my back, and proceeded back to my apartment, crossing the parking lots of two medical office buildings before entering the apartment complex parking lot and proceeding up the ramp to my apartment. Again, no one waylaid me, or attempted to collect a percentage on my groceries, or attempted to insist that I buy from them instead of Walgreen's. I exchanged waves and greetings with sundry of the landlord's men, who were engaged in repair work. Checking my mailbox, I found that, while I was out, the postman had left me a bank statement and an advertising circular. Over the next couple of days, I received parcels from Amazon via the Postal Service, United Parcel Service, and Federal Express. The postman and the parcel men had crossed hundreds of parking lots, private driveways, etc., in the course of their day's rounds, but no one had presumed to stop them, to inspect the contents of their trucks, or to levy a percentage. It is a bedrock principle that "Nothing on God's earth must ever stop the United States mail," and God help the poor fool who thinks otherwise. Yesterday, I hauled my duds down to the apartment complex's laundry room, and while my wash was spinning in the washing machine, I walked over to Walgreen's, got some stuff (nothing refrigerated or frozen, mostly bottles of various beverages), carried it back to the laundry room, set the bags of groceries on the table, put my wash in the dryer, waited forty-five minutes, loaded everything up on my back in an awkward camel's load, and carried it all back up to my apartment. Again, no problem.

    I realize this is a rather banal account, but it is the standard against which one should measure pretensions of various telecommunications providers. The notion that the telecommunications provider owns anything which it can, for the time being, physically intercept, is the mentality of a teenage street pirate and gangbanger.

    I don't think this kind of pretension is going to stop with information services. There really isn't very much money in things like movies and music, only about ten billion dollars per year each, or about thirty dollars per year per capita. By contrast, the revenue of the telecommunications industry is up in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Sooner or later, the telecommunications industry is going to move into more lucrative fields, things like delivered pizza, and the drive-through lanes at fast-food restaurants. You will find that if you have a Verizon cellphone contract, you can get Dominoes pizza, but not Papa John's or Godfathers, and you can use the McDonald's drive-through, but not the Burger King or Wendy's drive-through. For those, you would have to have AT&T or Sprint contracts. You will find that your cellphone mysteriously fails to work when calling the landline numbers of restaurants, the better to force you to eat Big Macs.

    At present, the restaurant industry is not very concentrated. McDonald's only accounts for about five percent of total restaurant revenue, and Burger King and Wendy's, even less. There are huge numbers of small restaurants and small chains, which serve better food than the "big three," and have local clientèles, but are not nationally known. Their total value is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The telecommunications companies would doubtless take the view that this industry needs "consolidating."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2014 @ 4:52am

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


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