US Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides Congress with thorough and balanced analysis of technological and scientific developments that affect the society, environment, and economy. A new report of GAO has detected “that the statistics on Internet access availability and access in America provided by the US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), are over-egged and misleading figures that routinely overstate reality.” As so often is the case, it is the detail in a comparatively small and niche case study that highlights the falsifications hidden the bigger picture. Simple extrapolation of the figures and evidence presented in the September 2108 GAO report “Broadband Internet: FCC’s Data Overstate Access on Tribal Lands” indicate that the regulator’s figures are a gross distortion of the reality of broadband access, speeds and competition across not only the report’s subject area but also across the entirety of the nation. Martyn Warwick of Telecom TV has written, “US regulator’s broadband statistics: Rubbish in – Rubbish out – Rubbish throughout.
In the course of a peer review, I wrote the following: Most people will connect to the Internet wirelessly. Some will be wireless for a few meters (WiFi), others for a few kilometers. All will use fiber for some parts of the connection, some in the form of FTTP, others in the form of backhaul capacity. In many cases, fixed 4G (wireless) is a direct substitute for wired connections. Our research shows that most people in lower-middle-income countries connect to the Internet using smartphones and tablets over mobile networks.
I have been impatient with people who think that inform-and-consent is the end all of privacy. One of the actual greatest dangers is personally identifiable information being stolen from service providers by hackers. This is a real privacy harm. I have not gone into the details of the FCC’s decision and its competitive implications. But it’s worth knowing they were paying attention to real privacy harms.
We’ve been pushing for greater policy attention to international backhaul markets since 2010. Haven’t said as much on domestic backhaul, but we have talked about that as a constraint as well. Good to have the FCC Chair on our side. Supplying backhaul is a profitable activity for the largest carriers in the US, notably AT&T and Verizon. Others, including Sprint, complain the market is uncompetitive.
It was in 2010, that the Obama Administration announced a roadmap to release 500 MHz of spectrum. With the newest announcement, it looks like the targets are being met. The only thing worse than having no announced roadmap, is having a roadmap where the targets are not met. The Federal Communications Commission on Friday said it reached its greatest hopes for the amount of spectrum it would be able to offer to wireless carriers in an auction scheduled to begin in late May. Television stations flocked to provide the spectrum, promising to sell enough of the valuable airwaves they use for broadcast programming to reach the agency’s maximum target for the auction.
It has been estimated that submarine cables carry traffic associated with over US$10 trillion in transactional value globally per day. It is being also claimed that submarine cables transport 99% of the international data worldwide. These are largely true, yet exaggerated marketing pitch. Terrestrial cables also carry huge volume of international data traffic across the borders, especially within Europe and across the Eurasian routes. It, however, makes no difference with the consumers as long as they remain online.
The United States has been at the bleeding edge of universal service policy ever since the term was misinterpreted from the early competitive era. It is therefore worth paying attention to the current FCC efforts. We will soon have US Aid and others promoting these ideas in our parts. More than 12 million households now participate in Lifeline, which was created in 1985 by the Reagan administration to subsidize landline telephone service. In 2008, the program was extended to cover the cost of mobile phones.
The situations in the US and our countries are very different: we have more competition at the access-network level, we have more people who are not connected and our retail pricing schemes are more rational. But it’s illuminating that the FCC is not as excited about zero rating as some other people: Under the FCC’s newly approved net neutrality rules, wireless carriers and other ISPs will not have to go the agency and ask permission every time they want to introduce a new offering or mobile broadband plan, such as a new zero-rating plan, according to FCC officials. The FCC adopted three so-called “bright line” rules for net neutrality: no blocking of legal content; no throttling of Internet traffic on the basis of content; and no paid prioritization of content. For everything not covered by those rules, the FCC approved a catchall “standard for future conduct,” which will used to ensure that broadband providers are not “unreasonably interfering with or unreasonably disadvantaging” the ability of consumers and content providers to use the Internet and connect to each other. Future practices will be judged on a case-by-case basis.
I’ve been asked by several people to comment on the choice of a Japanese standard for digital broadcasting in Sri Lanka, as part of the process of clearing the 700 MHz band of analog TV broadcasting and making the freed up spectrum available for more productive uses. I have not commented, partly because I lack the time to research the subject. But I have not made the effort to reallocate priorities in order to make time for this task because I know that refarming (which is what the digital transition is in essence) is inherently problematic and hard to do. There are pros and cons associated with all standards and there are vested interests that benefit or lose from any standards decision. I have lived long enough to know that there is no objective and undisputed superior standard.
Net neutrality sticks in one’s mind. Alliteration helps. The guy who cooked up the term ran for Lieutenant Governor nomination in New York and lost, but not too badly. Guess that helps explain its inherent openness to multiple meaning imposition. Net neutrality has an extraordinary range of meanings, not all consistent with each other.
If someone can clarify why it is wrong to allow “fast lanes” in broadband but not wrong for the same content companies to pay CDNs like Akamai to bring content closer to the user and thereby make access to the paid data faster? If the new rules deliver anything less, he added, “that would be a betrayal.” Mr. Wheeler rebuffed such criticism. “There is no ‘turnaround in policy,’ ” he said in a statement.
In 2010, the Obama Administration announced a road map to release 500 MHz of frequencies for mobile broadband. Looks like progress is being made. Perhaps the most significant move by the commission was to allow a broad swath of airwaves to be used for outdoor unlicensed broadband, clearing the way for a new generation of Wi-Fi networks and other uses of freely available airwaves. Unlike the airwaves used for mobile phone traffic, which are licensed to a specific company, unlicensed spectrum can be used by anyone. Previous establishments of unlicensed airwaves led to innovations like garage-door openers, baby monitors, wireless microphones and Wi-Fi networks.
This is stuck at the end of a New York Times article on how the new FCC Chair has been doing in his first months. Worth pondering over. But he has yet to speak plainly about his plans to overcome the net neutrality decision. Critics say that in doing so he has hidden just how much power the F.C.
Following the Court of Appeals ruling against its net neutrality order, the FCC is facing an existential challenge, says Tim Wu in an interview with the Washington Post. What could the FCC have done differently? The obvious alternative would have been to do what the FCC should have done and — in the future tense — now should do, which is to reclassify broadband under Title II authority. Other observers seem to think that’ll be hard to do, politically. There’s an effort to define it that way by the carriers, and to get people in Congress excited about that.
I am a fan of Mitchell Lazarus. This engineer-cum-lawyer, who is also a PhD in psychology, has brilliantly narrated the evolution of PSTN. He believes that regulating IP telephony is as challenging as “updating the rules of the road from horse-and-carriage traffic to modern automobiles.” It’s all about regulating the interconnected and non-interconnected VoIP services. There used to be a marked difference between the two: where interconnected VoIP needed no special skills, the typical non-interconnected VoIP customer was a highly computer-literate person with a headset plugged into a laptop.
Can the telcos work out deals with OTTs about the traffic they carry? Or do they have to be absolutely neutral? These are the questions. The outcome will reverberate across the world. The case, which is expected to be decided late this year or early next year, has attracted enormous interest.