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The Courts

First Lawsuits Challenging FCC's New Net Neutrality Rules Arrive 312

Posted by Soulskill
from the early-bird-gets-to-throttle-the-worm's-bandwidth dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A small ISP based in Texas and an industry trade group have become the first to file lawsuits challenging the FCC's recent net neutrality rules. The trade group, USTelecom, argues that the regulations are not "legally sustainable." Alamo Broadband claims it is facing "onerous requirements" by operating under Title II of the Communications Act. Such legal challenges were expected, and are doubtless the first of many — but few expected them to arrive so soon. While some of the new rules were considered "final" once the FCC released them on March 12, others don't go into effect until they're officially published in the Federal Register, which hasn't happened yet.
Government

ISPs Worry About FCC's 'Future Conduct' Policing 130

Posted by timothy
from the now-lookie-hyeah-boah dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "In the wake of the FCC passing net neutrality rules, the federal agency now has the authority to keep an eye on ISPs 'future conduct,' to prevent them from even starting to implement traffic-shaping plans that would violate net neutrality. Naturally, this has a lot of ISPs feeling nervous." From the article: The net neutrality rules, beginning on page 106, outline a process for staff to give advisory opinions to broadband providers who want to run a proposed business model past the agency before rolling it out. But those advisory opinions won’t have the weight of an official commission decision. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau will be able to reconsider, rescind or revoke those advisory opinions, and the commission itself will be able to overrule them, according to the order. “It’s unclear what you’re supposed to do when you have a new innovation or a new service,” the telecom lobbyist said. “There’s just a lot of ambiguity.” Even the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the most vocal proponents of strong net neutrality rules, urged the commission to jettison its future conduct standard.
Communications

Feds Fine Verizon $3.4 Million Over 911 Service Outage Issues 65

Posted by timothy
from the can't-get-through-to-you dept.
itwbennett writes The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has fined Verizon $3.4 million over its failure to notify police and fire departments during a 911 service outage last year. Under the commission's rules, Verizon and other carriers were required to notify emergency call centers of a six-hour outage that occurred in April. The outage involved multiple carriers and affected over 11 million people in seven states.
Google

Google's Solar-Drone Internet Tests About To Take Off 21

Posted by samzenpus
from the sky-web dept.
itwbennett writes Titan Aerospace, the drone-maker acquired last year by Google to help realize the company's ambitious plans to provide Internet access to remote areas via solar-powered drones, recently applied for and received two licenses from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to run tests over the next six months. The licenses, which are valid from March 8 until September 5, don’t give away much because Google has asked the FCC to keep many of the details confidential for commercial reasons, but they reveal the tests will take place inside a 1,345 square kilometer (520 square mile) area to the east of Albuquerque. The area includes the town of Moriarty, where Titan Aerospace is headquartered and conducts its research and development work.
United States

FCC Posts Its 400-Page Net Neutrality Order 347

Posted by timothy
from the meet-the-new-boss dept.
jriding sends word that the FCC has released new rules outlining its recently officialized role as internet regulator. Simply titled "Open Internet FCC-15-24A1," the order runs 400 pages. The actual text of the new rules is only 305 words long. [FCC head Tom] Wheeler said reclassifying broadband as an utility gives the FCC its best shot at withstanding legal challenges. The courts have twice tossed out earlier rules aimed at protecting Internet openness. The FCC chairman has said repeatedly the agency does not intend to set rates or add new taxes to broadband bills. More than 100 pages of the 400-page document released Thursday explain that forbearance. AT&T had hinted it would file a lawsuit once the new rules become public. The company's chief lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, didn't indicate Thursday when or even if AT&T would sue — only that the battle is far from over. "Unfortunately, the order released today begins a period of uncertainty that will damage broadband investment in the United States," Cicconi said. "Ultimately, though, we are confident the issue will be resolved by bipartisan action by Congress or a future FCC, or by the courts."
The Internet

SpaceX Worried Fake Competitors Could Disrupt Its Space Internet Plan 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-us-all-the-spectrum dept.
Jason Koebler writes: The biggest impediment to SpaceX's plan to create a worldwide, satellite broadband network might not be the sheer technological difficulty of putting 4,000 satellites into space. Instead, outdated international and domestic regulations on satellite communications could stand in the way, according to a new Federal Communications Commission filing by the company. The company's attorneys wrote that the FCC might make it too easy for competitors to reserve communications bandwidth that they will never use. "Spectrum warehousing can be extremely detrimental and unprepared, highly speculative, or disingenuous applicants must be prevented from pursuing 'paper satellites' (or 'paper constellations'), which can unjustly obstruct and delay qualified applicants from deploying their systems."
Republicans

House Republicans Roll Out Legislation To Overturn New Net Neutrality Rules 550

Posted by Soulskill
from the hooray-politics dept.
An anonymous reader writes: U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and 31 Republican co-sponsors have submitted the Internet Freedom Act (PDF) for consideration in the House. The bill would roll back the recent net neutrality rules made by the FCC. The bill says the rules "shall have no force or effect, and the Commission may not reissue such rule in substantially the same form, or issue a new rule that is substantially the same as such rule, unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act." Blackburn claims the FCC's rules will "stifle innovation" and "restrict freedom." The article points out that Blackburn's campaign and leadership PAC has received substantial donations. from Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.
Government

Feds Admit Stingray Can Disrupt Bystanders' Communications 194

Posted by samzenpus
from the you're-breaking-up dept.
linuxwrangler writes The government has fought hard to keep details about use and effects of the controversial Stingray device secret. But this Wired article points to recently released documents in which the government admits that the device can cause collateral damage to other network users. The controversy has heated to the point that Florida senator Bill Nelson has made statements that such devices will inevitably force lawmakers to come up with new ways to protect privacy — a comment that is remarkable considering that the Stingray is produced by Harris Corporation which is headquartered in Nelson's home state.
The Internet

As Big As Net Neutrality? FCC Kills State-Imposed Internet Monopolies 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-hurry-up-and-deploy-something,-my-city dept.
tedlistens writes: On Thursday, before it voted in favor of "net neutrality," the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to override state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that have barred local governments and public utilities from offering broadband outside the areas where they have traditionally sold electricity. Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance said the move was as important for internet competition as net neutrality: "Preventing big Internet Service Providers from unfairly discriminating against content online is a victory, but allowing communities to be the owners and stewards of their own broadband networks is a watershed moment that will serve as a check against the worst abuses of the cable monopoly for decades to come." The laws, like those in over a dozen other states, are often created under pressure from large private Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon, who consequently control monopolies or duopolies over high-speed internet in these places.
Verizon

Verizon Posts Message In Morse Code To Mock FCC's Net Neutrality Ruling 391

Posted by Soulskill
from the being-evil-in-humorous-ways dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Chris Matyszczyk reports at Cnet that Verizon has posted a message to the FCC titled: FCC's 'Throwback Thursday' Move Imposes 1930s Rules on the Internet" written in Morse code. The first line of the release dated February 26, 1934 in old typewriter font (PDF) reads: "Today (Feb.26) the Federal Communications Commission approved an order urged by President Obama that imposes rules on broadband Internet services that were written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph." The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines in favor of new Internet service rules that prohibit blocking, slowing or prioritizing traffic. The rules, which have not yet been released, are opposed by cable and telephone companies that fear it will curb Internet growth and stifle payback on network investment. "It isn't a surprise that Verizon is a touch against Thursday's order. In 2012, it insisted that the very idea of Net neutrality squished its First and Fifth Amendment right," writes Matyszczyk. "I wonder, though, who will be attracted by this open mockery. Might this be a sign that Verizon doesn't think the fight is over at all?"
The Internet

FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules 631

Posted by Soulskill
from the done-and-done dept.
muggs sends word that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has voted 3-2 to approve an expansion of their ability to regulate ISPs by treating them as a public utility. Under the rules, it will be illegal for companies such as Verizon or Cox Communications to slow down streaming videos, games and other online content traveling over their networks. They also will be prohibited from establishing "fast lanes" that speed up access to Web sites that pay an extra fee. And in an unprecedented move, the FCC could apply the rules to wireless carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint -- a nod to the rapid rise of smartphones and the mobile Internet. ... The FCC opted to regulate the industry with the most aggressive rules possible: Title II of the Communications Act, which was written to regulate phone companies. The rules waive a number of provisions in the act, including parts of the law that empower the FCC to set retail prices — something Internet providers feared above all. However, the rules gives the FCC a variety of new powers, including the ability to: enforce consumer privacy rules; extract money from Internet providers to help subsidize services for rural Americans, educators and the poor; and make sure services such as Google Fiber can build new broadband pipes more easily.
Communications

Developers Disclose Schematics For 50-1000 MHz Software-Defined Transceiver 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the fire-up-the-boat-anchor dept.
Bruce Perens writes Chris Testa KD2BMH and I have been working for years on a software-defined transceiver that would be FCC-legal and could communicate using essentially any mode and protocol up to 1 MHz wide on frequencies between 50 and 1000 MHz. It's been discussed here before, most recently when Chris taught gate-array programming in Python. We are about to submit the third generation of the design for PCB fabrication, and hope that this version will be salable as a "developer board" and later as a packaged walkie-talkie, mobile, and base station. This radio is unique in that it uses your smartphone for the GUI, uses apps to provide communication modes, contains an on-board FLASH-based gate-array and a ucLinux system. We intend to go for FSF "Respects Your Freedom" certification for the device. My slide show contains 20 pages of schematics and is full of ham jargon ("HT" means "handi-talkie", an old Motorola product name and the hams word for "walkie talkie") but many non-hams should be able to parse it with some help from search engines. Bruce Perens K6BP
The Internet

Republicans Back Down, FCC To Enforce Net Neutrality Rules 599

Posted by Soulskill
from the on-to-the-courts dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Republican resistance has ended for the FCC's plans to regulate the internet as a public utility. FCC commissioners are working out the final details, and they're expected to approve the plan themselves on Thursday. "The F.C.C. plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good.... In addition, it would ban the intentional slowing of the Internet for companies that refuse to pay broadband providers. The plan would also give the F.C.C. the power to step in if unforeseen impediments are thrown up by the handful of giant companies that run many of the country's broadband and wireless networks." Dave Steer of the Mozilla Foundation said, "We've been outspent, outlobbied. We were going up against the second-biggest corporate lobby in D.C., and it looks like we've won."
Government

How Big Telecom Tried To Kill Net Neutrality Before It Was Even a Concept 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the snuffing-it-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes This opinion piece at Ars looks at the telecommunications industry's ability to shape policy and its power over lawmakers. "...as the Baby Bells rolled out their DSL service, they saw the cable industry's more relaxed regulations and total lack of competition and wanted the same treatment from the government. They launched a massive lobbying effort to push the Clinton and Bush administrations, the Federal Communication Commission, and Congress to eliminate the network sharing requirement that had spawned the CLEC market and to deregulate DSL services more broadly. Between 1999 and 2002 the four companies spent a combined $95.6 million on lobbying the federal government, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which would rank them above such trade group lobbying behemoths as the Chamber of Commerce and the American Medical Association in total lobbying expenditures for the years. The companies also spent millions to lobby the public directly through aggressive advertising and public relations campaigns."
Businesses

California Floats Conditional Approval For Comcast/TWC Merger 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-it-worth-our-while dept.
New submitter Lord Flipper writes: The California Public Utilities Commission decision on the Comcast/Time-Warner proposed merger has just been released. It's not an exciting read, but the 25-bullet-point Appendix to the decision is interesting (PDF, starts on page 75). For example: "19. Comcast shall for a period of five years following the effective date of the parent company merger neither oppose, directly or indirectly, nor fund opposition to, any municipal broadband development plan in California, nor any CASF or CTF application within its service territory that otherwise meets the requirements of CASF or CTF."

Whoa! Comcast was not expecting this at all, and they're not happy about it. Here's one more, as an example: "8. Comcast shall offer Time Warner's Carrier Ethernet Last Mile Access product to interested [Competitive Local Exchange Carriers] throughout the combined service territories of the merging companies for a period of five years from the effective date of the parent company at the same prices, terms and conditions as offered by Time Warner prior to the merger."

The ruling by the CPUC covers all customers, present or in the future of the merged company, in California. What they're talking about is opening up Last Mile Access. This could be a step in the right direction, but the ruling today is definitely a surprise. It could nix the merger in California, or it could light a fire under the FCC's butts, or it could bring real competition to Internet access in California.

The CPUC is basing their entire decision on Common Carrier law (Setion 706, as opposed to Title II), and, unlike the projected FCC decision (coming around the 26th of the month) the CPUC's decision has all kinds of "teeth" as opposed to the FCC's "Title II, with forbearance" approach. It could get very interesting, very soon.
Cellphones

Starting This Week, Wireless Carriers Must Unlock Your Phone 100

Posted by timothy
from the better-than-employees-must-wash-hands dept.
HughPickens.com writes Andrew Moore-Crispin reports that beginning today, as result of an agreement major wireless carriers made with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in late 2013, wireless carriers in the US must unlock your phone as soon as a contract term is fulfilled if asked to do so unless a phone is connected in some way to an account that owes the carrier money. Carriers must also post unlocking policies on their websites (here are links for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile), provide notice to customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking, respond to unlock requests within two business days, and unlock devices for deployed military personnel. So why unlock your phone? Unlocking a phone allows it to be used on any compatible network, regardless of carrier which could result in significant savings. Or you could go with an MVNO, stay on the same network, and pay much less for the same cellular service.
The Internet

Confirmed: FCC Will Try To Regulate Internet Under Title II 379

Posted by Soulskill
from the talking-sense dept.
An anonymous reader writes: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has published an op-ed explaining how and why the FCC will "use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections." He says, "These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission. ... To preserve incentives for broadband operators to invest in their networks, my proposal will modernize Title II, tailoring it for the 21st century, in order to provide returns necessary to construct competitive networks. For example, there will be no rate regulation, no tariffs, no last-mile unbundling. Over the last 21 years, the wireless industry has invested almost $300 billion under similar rules, proving that modernized Title II regulation can encourage investment and competition."
The Internet

Big Telecoms Strangling Municipal Broadband, FCC Intervention May Provide Relief 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-take-some-of-that-gigabit-municipal-fiber-please dept.
MojoKid writes: With limited choice and often dismal upstream speeds, it's no wonder many people are excited to hear that newcomers like Google Fiber are expanding super-fast gigabit internet across the country. But some Americans also have access to other high-speed fiber internet options that compete with the big guys like Comcast and Time Warner Cable: municipal internet. In the case of the small town of Wilson, NC, town officials first approached Time Warner Cable and Embarq, requesting faster Internet access for their residents and businesses. Both companies, likely not seeing a need to "waste" resources on a town of just 47,000 residents, rebuffed their demands. So what did Wilson do? It spent $28 million dollars to build its own high-speed Internet network, Greenlight, for its residents, offering faster speeds and lower prices than what the big guys could offer. And wouldn't you know it; that finally got the big telecoms to respond.

However, the response wasn't to build-out infrastructure in Wilson or compete on price; it was to try and kill municipal broadband efforts altogether in NC, citing unfair competition. NC's governor at the time, Bev Perdue, had the opportunity to veto the House bill that was introduced, but instead allowed it to become law. However, a new report indicates that the FCC is prepared to side with these smaller towns that ran into roadblocks deploying and maintaining their own high-speed Internet networks. The two towns in question include aforementioned Wilson, and Chattanooga, TN. Action by the FCC would effectively strike down the laws — like those that strangle Greenlight in Wilson — which prevent cities from undercutting established players on price.
The FCC is also expected to propose regulating internet service as a utility later this week.
Wireless Networking

US Wireless Spectrum Auction Raises $44.9 Billion 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-wireless-benjamins dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The FCC's recent wireless spectrum auction closed on Thursday, and the agency has raked in far more money than anyone expected. Sales totaled $44.89 billion, demonstrating that demand for wireless spectrum is higher than ever. The winners have not yet been disclosed, but the FCC will soon make all bidding activity public. "The money will be used to fund FirstNet, the government agency tasked with creating the nation's first interoperable broadband network for first responders, to finance technological upgrades to our 911 emergency systems, and to contribute over $20 billion to deficit reduction. In addition, the auction brought 65 Megahertz of spectrum to market to fuel our nation's mobile broadband networks. The wireless industry estimates that for every 10 Megahertz of spectrum licensed for wireless broadband, 7,000 American jobs are created and U.S. gross domestic product increases by $1.7 billion."
Networking

Ask Slashdot: When and How Did Europe Leapfrog the US For Internet Access? 495

Posted by timothy
from the granpa-tell-us-a-story dept.
New submitter rsanford, apropos of today's FCC announcement about what is officially consided "broadband" speed by that agency, asks In the early and middle 90's I recall spending countless hours on IRC 'Trout-slapping' people in #hottub and engaging in channel wars. The people from Europe were always complaining about how slow their internet was and there was no choice. This was odd to me, who at the time had 3 local ISPs to choose from, all offering the fastest modem connections at the time, while living in rural America 60 miles away from the nearest city with 1,000 or more people. Was that the reality back then? If so, what changed, and when?