FCC's Net neutrality push: Is wireless access different?

FCC's Net neutrality push: Is wireless access different?

Summary: The Federal Communications Commission forged ahead with its Net neutrality proposals and invited industry players to comment on six principles. It didn't have to wait long. The big question: Would Net neutrality regulations hamper the wireless industry?

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The Federal Communications Commission forged ahead with its Net neutrality proposals and invited industry players to comment on six principles. It didn't have to wait long. The big question: Would Net neutrality regulations hamper the wireless industry?

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Monday outlined six Net neutrality principles including two new ones focused on network management transparency and non-discrimination against content and applications (Techmeme, FCC speech).

The reaction from Comcast, AT&T and Verizon was mixed. To wit:

  • Comcast says: "Before we rush into a new regulatory environment for the Internet, let’s remember there can be no doubt that the Internet has enjoyed immense growth even as these debates have gone on. The Internet in America has been a phenomenal success that has spawned technological and business innovation unmatched anywhere in the world. So it’s still fair to ask whether increased regulation of the Internet is a solution in search of a problem."
  • AT&T says: “We are concerned, however, that the FCC appears ready to extend the entire array of net neutrality requirements to what is perhaps the most competitive consumer market in America, wireless services."
  • Verizon also raised the wireless issue, according to CNet News' Maggie Reardon: "Our customers want an open experience," David Young, Verizon's vice president of regulatory affairs. "They want more choices, which is why we allow third-party developers and are providing developers complete access to our network. But our concern is that these new regulations, which apply regulation to the Internet for the first time, could have unintended consequences."
  • The CTIA, a wireless industry group, says: "As a justification for the adoption of rules, the Chairman suggested that one reason for concern ‘has to do with limited competition among service providers.’  This is at the core of our concerns.  Unlike the other platforms that would be subject to the rules, the wireless industry is extremely competitive, extremely innovative, and extremely personal.  How do the rules apply to the single-purpose Amazon Kindle?  How does it apply to Google’s efforts to cache content to provide a better consumer experience?  How about the efforts from Apple and Android, Blackberry and Nokia, Firefly and others to differentiate the products and services they develop for consumers?  Should all product and service offerings be the same?"

Reading the tea leaves it appears that the big network providers aren't going to fight a whole lot over landline access. Wireless will be a different story entirely.

And that makes a lot of sense. Think about it: There's limited bandwidth in wireless; there's unlimited data plans in theory; and wireless networks aren't nearly as developed. If the FCC goes too heavy on new regulations there could be unforeseen wireless repercussions. Meanwhile, the FCC's take on transparent network management requirements may be more of an issue in the wireless industry. Simply put, network management---and making sure there's enough access to go around---is really the entire game in the wireless industry.

Smart Planet: Net neutrality: When does transparency collide with competitive edge?

Topics: Government US, Government, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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11 comments
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  • Stop coddling wireless companies

    They are no longer fledgling upstarts but the new normal. It is simply mind-boggling why they get away with a much looser regulatory framework than landlines. Why is it, for instance, that you do not have a choice of carrier for international calls the way you do with long distance on landlines?
    fazalmajid
  • RE: FCC's Net neutrality push: Is wireless access different?

    There are still major fundamental problems with Net
    Neutrality.

    Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet
    content of their
    choice.

    Hole number one. As an ISP I decide that there is too
    much Flickr
    traffic. In the interest of decreasing traffic load I get on
    Flickr and find
    photos that aren't lawful. One of them is a photo of a
    painting of Job
    with his daughters (incest), one is of a classic painting
    showing two
    children naked (child pornography) and one is of George
    Washington
    crossing the Delaware (terrorism in the time period). I
    disable all
    access to Flickr because it provides access to unlawful
    content.

    Consumers are entitled to run applications and use
    services of their
    choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.

    Law Enforcement is subject to the government "of the
    people, by the
    people, and for the people," not the other way around.
    Law
    Enforcement doesn't know enough about computer science
    to
    determine what applications and services the public should
    be using.
    This is a function of the free market.

    Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal
    devices that do
    not harm the network.

    Any and all computers and wireless devices (in cases of a
    wireless
    network) can harm a network. This can occur without the
    consumer
    being aware of it. It can also be stipulated by the provider
    that a
    device that doesn't have X function (say class of service)
    harms the
    network by being connected. The problem is that the
    statement can
    be true, false, and a combination of true and false
    depending on
    usage. Also, cryptographic devices (VPN), high utilization
    devices
    (servers), and broadcast devices could be "harming the
    network"
    based on utilization not on the device.

    Consumers are entitled to competition among network
    providers, application and service providers, and content
    providers.

    This is where most wireless providers are whining. AT&T
    wants you to use their cell phone service, not the data
    service with Skype on it. One, they loose the income from
    your making an IP call, instead of a cell call. Two, you use
    data instead of cell service doing this. If everyone started
    doing this, the data network wouldn't survive (it isn't
    mature enough to handle the amount of data this would
    require). Three, people being upset that they get poor
    quality IP telephony look for another carrier. Once
    "balancing" occurs (each carrier has the people on its
    network that data can handle) customers are stuck with
    cheaper poor quality IP telephony for years instead of
    higher cost, higher quality cell service. The cell service
    would go away once enough customers are lost and cost
    to maintain the network exceeds income from said
    network.

    Internet access providers can?t discriminate against
    particular Internet content or applications, while allowing
    for reasonable network management.

    This ties in with my statement above. Until wireless service
    is allowed to mature, and can handle the demand, this
    could kill wireless data in its childhood. Reviews should be
    put in to place to determine when the rule four and five
    should apply (once every two years).

    Internet access providers must be transparent about the
    network management practices they implement.

    Absolutely! I am paying for a service. I would not buy
    maid service from a company that said, "You can't be
    home while we are there cleaning because we don't want
    you to see (copy, criticize, etc) our cleaning techniques." I
    want to know what is going on with MY data going out,
    and what is going on with the data coming to me.
    kd5jos
  • Misrepresenting network neutrality

    Genachowski took pains to clarify his proposed network neutrality rules do not preclude traffic-shaping. It just cannot discriminate between applications, and must be disclosed.

    Thus is your network is incapable of handling the load from iPhones (ahem, AT&T), you are entitled to limit each user's bandwidth to an equitable share of the available bandwidth. You cannot, however, block Skype (which has minimal bandwidth requirements for voice) using congestion as a pretext. The users get to choose what applications they can run in the bandwidth allocation they have.

    You can also not claim unlimited bandwidth or access (ahem Comcast) when you are in fact throttling it all the way down because you lack available spectrum in your coax cable plant.

    AT&T's assertion that consumer wireless services are competitive is simply laughable.
    fazalmajid
    • True Competition

      Until a person can move from one cell phone company to another without having to purchase a new phone, there will not be true competition.

      Phones will sell because of features and functionality. And when those phones can be connected to any sell phone company's network that I choose to purchase phone service from, then and only then will there be true competition in the market.
      satovey
  • burn wireless companies...

    Time to make the market more agressive. Lets promote compedative services and solutions.

    The internet should be like just like the physical world. Dont want someone walking on your property?...put up a fence(Firewall router). Want the maid in the house but not the garage?...give her a key(domain controllers/VPN) Dont want people sending you a package full of termites?...Get a sniffing dog(Virus protection).

    The idea that the mail man needs to be responsible for the content of the packages he delievers or that you leave your garage door with you BMW in it open for the maid to enter your house makes the maid responsible for someone stealing your car... IS ABSOLUTELY ABSURD.

    We are getting as retarded as the european union.
    Millystone
  • Does Transparency = Privacy

    No one seems concerned with privacy. I hope that transparency means legal constraints against selling your; surfing habits, call information incoming and outgoing including names address etc., and what applications you are using just to name a few. As I have said many times, CEO?s and all affiliates of these corporations are nothing more than blood sucking parasites that in my opinion belong in prison.

    Larry stated, ?If the FCC goes too heavy on new regulations there could be unforeseen wireless repercussions.? Could you be any vaguer? What repercussions; they are making billions and any additional hindrances just may open the doors for others to enter the market.
    OKWHEN
    • Privacy != Transparency | Neutrality

      There are SOME elements of privacy inherent in neutrality (if they are not
      inspecting/filtering your data, no one is aware of your data) but
      transparency is the opposite of privacy.

      Net Privacy is mostly a separate issue. It's related and important but we
      could talk all day working out best practices for neutrality and not
      mention privacy.

      If we can get neutrality policy established and enforced, we should
      definitely tackle privacy next.
      Htalk
  • RE: FCC's Net neutrality push: Is wireless access different?

    I think one of the more important areas of net neutrality with respect to the wireless carriers is defining them as an internet service provider. Currently this is a muddy area in which the wireless providers have great freedom and perhaps take advantage of customers and charing them a premium or surcharge above and beyond the monthly service fee.

    Carriers varying pricing for Pandora is perhaps the best example of why Net Neutrality should be applied to Wireless carriers. If you have an iPhone (that is already sucking the data life out of AT&T) you can use Pandora for free. However, if you have a differnt phone, you must pay AT&T nine dollars a month to use Pandora. Now remember that Pandora is a FREE service that uses the data plan that I already PAY AT&T $30/month for. Other carriers range from free to $3.99/month charge for Pandora as well.

    What happens when the Wireless carriers want to start charging you extra for other websites and services on the internet that you use?

    The big problem I see with this is that wireless data services are going to keep rising. On AT&T I've seen the prices go from the split of $20/$35 (basic phone/PDA) to $30 for all phones. Although $35 to $30 seems nice for use PDA/smartphone users, $20 to $30 for the vast majority of people was a 33% price increase and is only going to go up. As Net Neutrality is applied to the behemoth wireless carriers, they will whine and raise prices to offset the additional traffic and load on their network.

    So I guess either way we look at Net Neutrality, the end result is that the consumer is going to get the short end of the stick, regardless.
    spokanedj
    • a separate but important issue

      The FCC should address and are currently investigating wireless pricing
      structures.. as well as device exclusivity.
      Htalk
  • data-wise, yes it is

    The argument that because wireless access can become
    saturated with clusters of roving users is one of total
    bandwidth, not of filtering packets. The telecoms keep trying to
    argue that they MUST filter packets in order to manage
    bandwidth, which is a crock.

    The phrase "dumb pipe" has been echoing around the telecom
    business for a while now as a rallying cry to maximize profits
    at the expense of the public. There's nothing dumb about
    providing steady bandwidth for any and all internet data. It's
    not easy to do and it's of growing importance to human
    society.

    More descriptive terms would be whether you want your service
    to be a "freedom pipe" or a "tyranny pipe".

    The FCC's new chairman is finally someone who wants to go in
    the right direction on this matter. I just hope they don't get
    convinced by telecom corp lies to make concessions.
    Htalk
  • RE: FCC's Net neutrality push: Is wireless access different?

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