Thursday, February 26, 2009

Potted history of the US debate

Good summary of how they got here - atleast inside the Beltway.

"Nettn√łytralitet" is coming to Norway!

The regulator in Norway has been ahead of the game on net neutrality, and it has made the ISPs and cablecos sign up to a co-regulatory pact on transparency and consumer rights. 
  1. First, Internet users must be given complete and accurate information about the service they are buying, including capacity and quality. 
  2. Users are allowed to send and receive content of their choice, use services and applications of their choice. and connect any hardware and software that doesn't harm the network. 
  3. The connection cannot be discriminated against based on application, service, content, sender, or receiver."
There are various explanations that any network management must be non-discriminatory. Head of the regulator Willy Jensen states: "Everyone who endorses these guidelines has made it clear that they support an open Internet on which different providers can compete freely to offer content and services. Internet users need to be assured that the Internet service provider they have chosen will not act as a gatekeeper for their Internet use."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Leadbetter: Backward-looking through a glass with Carter

Charles Leadbetter summarises Carter rather well: "There is nothing in the Carter report about how Britain will create the next Google or Youtube, where the money, entrepreneurship and markets will come from...If we are not careful the Digital Revolution will become a manifesto to protect incumbents rather than promote competition and innovation. Reading Digital Britain one cannot help but feel the government finds the opportunities for people to self-organise through the web all too unsettling for its more technocratic, controlling tendencies."
Hmmm, old-fashioned oligopoly you say?
Well, if you like looking forwards, look at the CIPPIC report on net neutrality, excellent work on how protecting old telecoms and media can ruin competitiveness and free speech.

Canada analyzes while US Republicans burn

Excellent analysis  by Michael Geist into the ongoing Canadian inquiry into NN including accusations from content owner The Weather Network (you need good forecasts in Canada!) against wireless carriers blocking content:
  • wireless reseller blocking ads from a mobile site
  • wireless carriers stripping out tracking codes embedded in web pages, thereby limiting ability to deliver ads
  • wireless carriers establishing “walled gardens” that provide preferential access that reduces data charges for sites within the walled garden
  • forcing users through wireless carrier homepage when accessing the Internet on feature phones
  • prior approval of applications for use on smart phones
  • extra fees for text messages that include ads
  • wireless carriers limiting to whom ads in text messages may be sold
The deadline was Wednesday and hearings are scheduled in July, including a joint Reed/Odlyzko/St Arnaud blockbuster on behalf of consumers - can't wait! 

Meanwhile back in the madhouse that is DC, Beltway Republicans froth at the mouth that neutrality proponents are communists....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More from Burstein on the BT Openreach balls-up

Dave is spot-on, certainly judging by recent non-strategy conversations I've had with the Openreach non-direction:
Structural separation currently is looking to fail badly in Britain, after an important initial success in opening the retail market and bringing down prices from exorbitant to not so bad and spurring enormous growth. The weaknesses are now becoming visible. BT Wholesale has a reinforced monopoly of the local loop, so requires stronger than ever regulation. The loop charge alone is more than the total charge in some other regions. Richards is now talking about raising the monopoly price, an indirect way to bail out BT for losses in global, etc. 
More seriously, Britain is set to have an Internet that will be 50-90% slower than most of France and now Greece. If you believe a competitive Internet is crucial to a nation, that's clearly a market failure. The difference in cost to build fiber is real but small in relation to overall telco spending. Verizon's additional capex for FIOS is about 3% of revenue... British Telecom instead has cable competition only in half their territory. The cable company has gone broke recently, and is so stretched now they have already restructured the debt. Ian Livingston isn't afraid they will lose the customers even if they do only a modest upgrade of their copper lines. So they fighting with everything they have to keep the copper valuable for many years. As long as the companies can make money on copper, they have enormous incentive to not upgrade. Verizon, France Telecom, KPN and others facing competition can't think like that. If the didn't replace copper with fiber, they would be clobbered."

Amen.

Burstein spills the beans on Carter's broadband giveaway

Dave states re the stimulus-free giveaways in the UK:
"Britain [is] headed down a similar path of giving the money to the companies without getting much additional buildout and few jobs. There's a lot of window dressing like Britain's 2 megabits to everyone but when I run the numbers BT is demanding rate increases, toll booths and subsidy far greater than the cost of serving the customers with $200 repeaters. I'm not sure the new Minister, Stephen Carter, realizes the broadband in his "Digital Britain" plan is essentially a BT bailout. That may be the right policy - BT lost a $B+ on Global Services, and has a pension deficit so large they are afraid to calculate it under some return assumptions."
I think Carter is cynical enuogh that he knows its both a BT and a mobile bailout, at the expense of the end-user.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

John Kerry heads Senate Sub-Committee on broadband, net neutrality and Fairness Doctrine

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller has created a new Communications and Technology Subcommittee under the 2004 Presidential candidate. Kerry stated: “There’s a huge agenda on our plates, from the digital television transition, expanding access to broadband, promoting greater diversity in media ownership, and following through on the 9/11 Commission recommendation to build a nationwide interoperable public safety network. I’m looking forward to diving into these issues and building consensus for good public policy.”
This is FAR more important than the relatively minor details of the stimulus plan.

Congress passes broadband stimulus plan

While I was enjoying an Internet-free long weekend, Congress finally passed the stimulus, with much jiggery-pokery in the House Committee on Rules that reconciles Senate and House versions of Bills. Of course rabid anti-NN Bell lobbyists insist that this horse-trading sets great precedents for the future of net neutrality - though it actually mandates non-discrimination for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program so that's rewriting facts, or being 'economical with the actualite - and the appalling Hollywood stooge Dianne Feinstein tried all sorts of shenanigans that failed. Probably not if 2006 legislative history is the judge...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

To the tune of 'Looking for Elvis'

It was a clear black night, a clear white moon,

I was checking YouTube for the latest pop tunes,

"The DSL is lagged, I can't get no sound,

My brothers' P2P has dragged the whole net down!"

"My kids are little thieves, they rob the record stores!

Instead of paying for music, they download more and more,

I wish I'd said something sooner; it's too little too late,

Someone should have taught me how to REGULAAAAAAAATE!"

Kroes and Reding arguing over opening Dutch cable?

Is this a storm in a teacup? The Google translation of the decision to open Dutch cable networks to competition - a first in Europe - appears to suggest Dutch retiring Commissioner (i.e. going back home) Nellie Kroes tried to intervene improperly. Naughty naughty.

The decision is of course a very important precedent for open access to broadband networks, though it focuses on analogue and digital TV.

Reding's still vague on net neutrality

EDRI-gram helpfully find the relevant section in her Internet freedom speech:
"(...) we will only be able to reap the full social and economic benefits of a fast moving technological landscape if we manage to safeguard the openness of the Internet. Openness is one of  the key ingredients that made the Internet so successful as an innovation place, and we have to make sure that it is not compromised" she said. "Net Neutrality has to be guaranteed. New network management techniques allow traffic prioritisation. These tools may be used to guarantee good quality of service but could also be used for anti-competitive practices. The Commission has taken additional steps, through measures proposed to reform our telecom package, to better prevent such unfair abuse to the detriment of consumers". 
Yes, but is it only a competition issue, or also a consumer welfare issue more broadly? I'm not sure whether she 'gets it'?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Obama's shopping list in information law

Nice NYLJ piece on the various items he's got to consider once he's saved the world economy, including: 
"Some commentators predict that net neutrality legislation will wait for the outcome of the FCC/Comcast dispute... Since the ruling, Comcast announced plans to limit residential Internet usage and has appealed the order to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the FCC lacks authority to enforce its net neutrality principles without specific congressional authority. If the appeals court upholds the FCC's authority to enforce its net neutrality principles, then Congress and the new administration may hold off and allow the FCC to adjudicate any violations on a case-by-case basis; if the decision is overturned, interest in net neutrality legislation may be revitalized.However, the House economic stimulus bill, which provides resources for broadband and wireless broadband deployment grants, contains net neutrality language."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Filtering and spam: ISPs likely to increase control

CNET has a nice story based on presentations by Gerry Lewis from Comcast and myself at Wharton 2 weeks ago - Gerry's explanation of the huge extent of spam in email - 90% of Comcast received mail and 97-98% estimated on the web - is sobering. Hopefully all ISPs are as reasonable as Gerry and the real mail still gets through...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dave Burstein on Brit broadband

First, lets see where he's coming from - the US has a pro-net neutrality, interventionist incoming FCC chair, competing networks offering fobre or DOCSIS3.0 to the majority of the country, and educated consumer advocates (including Dave himself!). So his view on bandwidth caps tells you where we stand: "I'm one of the few who said Comcast's 250G cap was reasonable in 2008, because there is a cost of bandwidth.  But every policymaker in D.C. knows that the 20, 40, and 80 gig caps are a blatant attempt to discourage “access to content of your choice.”" The question of what level of monthly cap is acceptable is one that regulators must grapple with - mobiles currently offer caps as low as 1GB!

But on to the UK - he notes that Virgin is charging a premium for DOCSIS3.0, and then discusses Ofcom's views: "OFCOM talk of “super-fast broadband” is an attempt to fool the British people. BT's 1 up, ? down is 50-90% slower than what's building in New York, Boston, Paris, Geneva, and Amsterdam. That looks to be the only choice for half the country unless Ed demands more from BT. Red queen language that's beneath Ed Richards."

Well, quite - no doubt Ed is earning his salary working on how to squeeze BT into promising VDSL all round?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Mickey Mouse and content discrimination - its cable TV on TCP/IP

ESPN, part of Disney, has withdrawn its video service from several ISPs that don't pay it - reflecting the two-sided markets in cable TV where the payments between carriers and content channels vary in size and direction depending on the attraction of the content. What it means is that big content players may break out of net neutrality before ISPs, sensing a chance to screw both subscribers and carriers - its what we do in Europe with live football rights, as Herbert Ungerer points out constantly and correctly.

Elsehwere, I finally laid my hands on the pathetic Copenhagen Economics report on net neutrality - (link first hit on Google) not much to say except that this would fail miserably a Masters thesis. Its disjointed, rambling and contains several nonsequiturs. I hope the neocon/deregulatory sponsors were pleased.

Reding on Global Online Freedom from filtering - lets talk instead...

Its not clear what Madame suggests, but her speech to the EuroParliament lists the various US legal, technical, civil society and IGF moves that are afoot - then she has no solution, except to insist that security, privacy and freedom of expression should not be opposed to each other. Except they often are...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Rob Freiden on the new FCC and its old habits

Rob makes the following stellar point in a series of excellent blog posts:
"Absent peer review, a full opportunity to consider the views of the general public and general open mindedness, the FCC regularly relies on the biased filings of stakeholders. The Commission regularly accepts as the gospel truth nothing more than assertions. If stakeholders make these assertions long enough and finance “rock star” academics to embrace these assertions, then it becomes quite easy for the FCC to accept assertions as fact. Economists use this process with great success, because they can create unimpeachable “rules” and use math to support them. In telecommunications policy sponsored economics professors have stated with a straight face that regulation constitutes a confiscation of property, that carriers providing interconnection are entitled to retail price compensation including all “opportunity costs,” that just about every telecommunications market sector is robustly competitive and deserving of deregulation and that every merger or acquisition will promote even more competition. In conjunction with results-driven decision making such “research” provides cover and support for the FCC to conclude that the public interest coincides with the assertions of particular stakeholders. The FCC should have a healthy skepticism that what’s good for a specific stakeholder is also good for the public in general. It might or might not."
Amen.

Ofcom Consumer Panel blogging

Its good to see some serious public outreach being indulged in by the Consumer Panel, not using the disgusting Ofcom website (Oftel's was much more user-friendly) but a nice clean site of their own! It should also annoy Stephen Carter and any control freaks remaining inside Ofcom...

Lord Puttnam bewails lack of ambition in Digital Britain

He sees a 2Mbps ambition (not a declared goal but an aspiration according to Lord Carter)  for USO as '20th Century thinking':

"The report has its priorities straight but I worry greatly about its scale and ambition regarding the level of bandwidth we need. I've been talking to people in Singapore about needing gigabytes by 2015. Either the authorities here are barmy and don't realise what the British creative industries here need, or we are. There's a massive gap of where the balance of credibility lies. Are we a 21st Century nation or are we equipping ourselves for the 20th Century?"

Stephen Fry backs net neutrality

The greatest exponent of the written and spoken English language (and with 100,000 Twitter followers a pretty serious Internet artist) lends his support to an open and unfiltered Internet.

Computers and Law article on Net Neutrality now available

Here! That is all...

Comcast responds to FCC: our VOIP avoids Interwebs

Comcast responded to the latest FCC net neutrality ruling by repeating its claim that it engineers its own VOIP product with QoS and avoids the public Internet. Thet also hint that future investment prospects will be less rosy if the FCC keeps bitchslapping them...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

LINX links on ISP liability

Malcolm Hutty has some good analysis of the ISP liability compromise worked out in the Digital Britain draft report.