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Broadband Roundup: Baltimore Fiber, T-Mobile Throttling, and Cybersecurity Legislation Concerns




WASHINGTON, July 3, 2014 - Leaders of the Baltimore Broadband Campaign are saying that Comcast has a monopoly over fast internet services in the city of Baltimore. Over a course of two years, Comcast customers pay about $1,000 for standard "triple play service, write Philip Spevak, Stan Wilson and Anthony Gill in an Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun.

Instead, the authors want fiber to be widely deployed to homes and businesses, and they say 14 communities in north Baltimore have partnered to facilitate a more competitive environment: there want to entice one of the more than 800 fiber optic providers to invest in Baltimore.

Their two-phase process begins with a grassroots crowdfunding campaign to convince providers of the existing demand for fiber-based broadband. Informing local residents of the possibilities of and need for new fiber broadband providers is vital, they say, given that "20 to 40 percent of Baltimore residents are not even connected to the internet, slow or otherwise."

The second phase would engage city and state officials in "proactive public policy" preventing barriers to municipal-owned broadband, they said.

"Many other cities throughout the nation are making rapid progress installing fiber broadband infrastructure and services. It's time for the citizens of Baltimore City to stop paying more money for less and work together to bring faster and cheaper Internet to our homes and businesses," they concluded.

Public Knowledge called out T-Mobile for what it called efforts to “disguise” its data-throttling activities for users that exceed their monthly data quota. By exempting the Ookla speed test and other speed testing applications from throttling, the company effectively prevents "consumers from learning exactly how slow their throttled connections are" when they exceed their data caps.

This move will "exploit online data caps, harm online innovation, and violate the spirit of online openness," the advocacy group said. Previously, the company said that it would also exempt its own online music service from throttling activities, raising a potential net neutrality violation.

The company “has argued that its Music Freedom program is not a violation of net neutrality because no money has exchanged hands and it offers only benefits to its customers. As with T-Mobile’s music program, however, this new ‘speedtest exception’ only applies to selected speed testing applications blessed by T-Mobile,” said Public Knowledge. “There really is no reason that ISPs should be in a position to bless individual services over others."

The Senate is currently considering the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, which is under heavy fire from critics who claim that it exposes net neutrality loopholes, according to InfoWorld.

While the law is intended to let companies share information about potential cyber threats with the government, technology and civil liberties groups wrote in a letter wrote in a letter that Internet service providers could use the provision as an excuse to discriminate against content providers like Netflix under the guise of a cyber security threat.

"Net neutrality is a complex topic and policy on this matter should not be set by cybersecurity legislation," they wrote.

Sponsors Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., argued that the bill "responds to the massive and growing threat to national and economic security from cyber intrusion and attack, and seeks to improve the security of public and private computer networks by increasing awareness of threats and defenses."


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