FCC Quickly Shoots Down The First (Incredibly Stupid) Net Neutrality Complaint

from the chicken-little-was-wrong dept

Back in June we noted how the very first net neutrality complaint had been filed and that it was notably stupid, but important. Basically, a small San Diego company by the name of Commercial Network Services (CNS) tried to complain that Time Warner Cable was abusing its monopoly power by refusing to give the company free peering. CNS operates a series of webcams in the San Diego area which, when visited, inform users that the reason they can't access the "ultra-HD" version of the cameras is because their ISP isn't a peering partner with CNS:
CNS claim
In its informal FCC complaint, CNS tried to claim that Time Warner Cable's refusal to offer free peering violates the "no paid prioritization" and "no throttling" sections of the new net neutrality rules. Basically, CNS has been trying to claim that net neutrality somehow means it deserves free peering from bigger ISPs, even though that's never been how things work for smaller companies, and the new net neutrality rules don't change that. So it was the first net neutrality complaint, but it was also the first example of a company trying to use the rules to weasel out a business advantage, something mega-ISPs tried to claim would be a huge, unmanageable problem.

But the FCC has apparently seen this complaint for what it is and acted accordingly, basically informing the company politely in a letter that it needs to shut up and go away:
"In this instance we regret that you were not satisfied with attempts by FCC staff to facilitate a more satisfactory resolution of the underlying issue. At this point, you might want to contact the company directly to see if you and the company can arrive at a resolution that is more acceptable to you. You will receive no further status on your complaint from FCC staff."
While the net neutrality rules don't specifically cover interconnection, they do give the authority for the FCC to resolve complaints on a case-by-case basis. In this case, the FCC clearly found nothing wrong. And that's a good thing; one narrative of incumbent mega ISPs before the rules were passed was that the FCC would run amok, competitors would abuse the rules, and we'd be wandering a minefield of unintended consequences and protracted legal battles, decimating the telecom landscape as we know it. Yet here, the FCC quickly saw a stupid complaint and shot it down with minimal fuss.

Obviously that's only one complaint, and we'll need to watch the FCC closely to see just what trips the agency's definition of anti-competitive behavior. But so far so good, and none of it has required "heavy handed regulation." Simply having rules in place has already helped on the interconnection front, with companies like Netflix, Cogent, Level 3 and the mega ISPs (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon) getting along famously simply due to the threat that a regulator might just do its job.

CNS, meanwhile, insists it's going to proceed and file a formal net neutrality complaint, for whatever that winds up being worth (and it won't be much).

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2015 @ 9:47am

    heh

    This is a sign of a potential problem though... what if the FCC sided with the person complaining?

    The way the rules are written the FCC could have went off the reservation. It's good they did the correct thing this time, but if next time...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2015 @ 9:52am

      Re: heh

      what if unicorns were real

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2015 @ 10:05am

        Re: Re: heh

        they are, just not what you think they are.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2015 @ 10:15am

        Re: Re: heh

        Then all ponies would be pink, flying cars would not be necessary because transporters are more efficient, culture would be free from litigious non-creative middle persons, monopolies would be crushed the moment the monopolists began exerting their power, and worldwide agencies would investigate every use of force with the intent of using force on the force instigators.

        I WILL wake up from this dream NOW!

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

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 7 Oct 2015 @ 10:17am

      Re: heh

      There are bigger problems if the FCC isn't able to distinguish between and ISP and a content creator.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2015 @ 10:55am

      Re: heh

      Not sure the article is relevant in that direction. This only seems to just be FCC acting responsibly. When it comes to "unforeseen consequences" we will have to wait for the answer to the official complaint to see how the precedence will go.

      The "what if..." is completely nonsensical unless you have something specific in mind? If you have nothing to point to, you are spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt.

      Don't do that. Think about what that does to our children and for terrorists! ;)

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2015 @ 1:05pm

        Re: Re: heh

        The question asked what if the FCC sided with the plaintiff? This is not an open ended question! How much more specific does it need to get? Hmm? or is this question not specific enough for you either?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Oct 2015 @ 1:22pm

    CNS needs lessons...

    I'm on a 1.5m connection and if YouTube can send 720x480 videos consistently CNS shouldn't have any issues.

    Not to mention the various adult cam sites that can send 720x480 - or larger - live streams with audio.

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

  • identicon
    Socrates, 7 Oct 2015 @ 3:07pm

    Mutual peering

    Predicting the future is not easy, and predicting what will happen if the basis for the hypothesis is unlikely is not easier.

    But let us presume that FCC view the evidence of how the tier 1 (and their ilk) act, and how and under which condition things work in more functional democracies. And let us presume that FCC considers the Internet to be vital for a large percentage of the citizens and corporations. And then wake up from the paralysis to help USA out of the quagmire.

    FCC might mandate:
    1)Mutual peering
    2)Roaming
    3)Right of way
    4)Payback of money (heaps of money)
    5)Federal rules allowing municipality networks
    and more

    or/and

    6)Title II


    If they did the incumbents would whine themselves hoarse. The cost of an Internet connection would half as a measure to stop citizens from migrating to new providers, and then it would approach the real world cost. As municipalities and other providers grow they would establish peer connections making the Internet more robust. More people would afford to be part of this vital part of society. It would help USA become more competitive again. And the new technology the added connectivity helps create, would help too.

    The probability that FCC would actually do something that matters to help the citizens and USA is low. Just look at the previous comments to see how unlikely. Pink unicorn unlikely!

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

    • identicon
      Socrates, 7 Oct 2015 @ 3:14pm

      Re: Mutual peering

      My post were a reply to "Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2015 @ 1:05pm" : The question asked what if the FCC sided with the plaintiff?

      Not sure why it ended up on the main thread.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 7 Oct 2015 @ 8:19pm

      Re: Mutual peering

      The cost of an Internet connection would half as a measure to stop citizens from migrating to new providers, and then it would approach the real world cost.

      That's what the incumbents are terrified of.

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

  • identicon
    B e N, 8 Oct 2015 @ 1:11am

    Just a question: The Main-Problem is that the Internet is everywhere (it's the purpose of it) and therefore it is not easy possible to tell when you have access to the internet. The big ISP try to use this to declare that they are basically the Internet and if others like Netflix want get on it then they have to pay. It's stupid, but you have to remember that a big part of an ISP is to sell big Companies this service. In the example of Netflix Netflix choose another Service (Congenta?) as a partner, but surely ISP would like Netflix paying them. The open Connect CDN are no “solution” for the ISP then again they see it as Netflix has to pay for this service since it’s very similar to the service ISP offer themselves.
    My point is: Wouldn't a good solution be to define clear exchange-Points where the exchange is free. Then the ISPs have to serve every customer to this point to declare that they give them Internet-Access and Netflix has to pay someone to transfer the data there. If there is a congestion (as is now) then the costs are shared half-half and several rules apply when the exchange has to be expanded.

    What do you think of this solution? Problems will be that anyone want access to this points since then the Internet is free, so there have to be rules. But I think it is a basis from where you can evolve and micro-enterprises like in this article will have a clear answer that, as long as they don’t deliver the data to this exchange-points, they have to deal with the ISP.

    (Long-term solution would be to enable a state-founded or regulated backbone of the Internet to which everyone can peer for clear terms.)

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

  • identicon
    corey, 13 Oct 2015 @ 6:30pm

    I got to ask

    what if this had been a "security firm" doing this complaint? In that their security system was designed to send a live feed of someone's home to their laptop across the country, where the difference between 320I vs 720p feeds makes all the difference in identifying an intruder accurately? Which with 320I it might be your neighbor checking on your house but is mistaken as an intruder due to poor video quality and vice versa.

    WE can all agree that it would be nice to be-able to keep an "accurate" eye on your house while away right? without having to rely or trust someone you may not know all that well?

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


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