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Broadband Roundup: More Than a Million Comments on Net Neutrality, Plus Seattle Goes Again for Gigabit Broadband




WASHINGTON, July 21, 2014 - More than one million comments were received by the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality before the Friday night deadline, Reuters reported. The second round of comments will give the public until Sept. 10 to respond.

AT&T pitched to the FCC its proposal that "fast lanes" could be regulatorily barred without reclassifying the internet as a public utility. The agency could do this, the company said, by interpreting discriminatory, paid prioritization as a “commercially unreasonable” practice. The telecom company said, however, that user-directed prioritization would still be permissible.

Such an interpretation, AT&T said, would allow a provider of information services on the “edge “of the network to pay a broadband provider for an increase in the maximum bandwidth available to a customer so that such data could be transmitted at a higher speed, "obviating the need for the customer to pay for a higher-speed service just to obtain a better experience when using a particular application."

"The Commission would not be banning all prioritization arrangements as an undifferentiated whole, but instead would be imposing restrictions on when such arrangements may be used,” the communications giant said. In referencing the legal test that the Supreme Court uses for the sorts of permissible restrictions that government have impose on speech-related activities, it said: ”The rules would be akin to time, place, and manner restrictions - not a broad, unqualified per se common-carriage obligation."

Verizon Communications also filed comments in opposition to public utility reclassification, but went one step further: reclassification "would not even achieve the main results desired by its proponents...namely, banning two-sided arrangements or any arrangements that would result in some bits being handled differently than others."

Since two-sided marketplace arrangements have existed for decades under Title II of the Communications Act, Verizon said reclassification would actually mandate two-sided arrangements.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told the Boston Globe that while ubiquitous access must be preserved for everyone, governmental regulation needs to avoid stifling innovation online.

“If you have the choice of many providers, you create a more competitive environment,” Rosenworcel said. “But many consumers have the choice of only one or two providers that can offer them really fast broadband speeds.”

Additionally, she said that federal and state governments must streamline their tax and regulatory policies to incentivize entry into the market.

Also, the FCC announced Friday that it will vote Aug. 8 on whether to require wireless carriers to be capable of delivering text messages to 911 by the end of the year. Call centers would still have to upgrade their technology for the texts to work.

Michael Mattmiller, Seattle's chief technology officer, said that he wants make another attempt at a city-owned broadband network after the failed partnership with Gigabit Squared, according to the Seattle Times.

Matmiller also said he wants to explore whether incumbent operators can improve their service with help from the city.

"At this point we have to consider all options," Mattmiller told the Seattle Times. "We have to look at, No. 1, how are we reducing barriers to competition, knowing that the marketplace is hungry for more broadband...we also need to look at public-private partnerships...that can leverage our assets to go out and deliver commercial internet."

If all else fails, then it's time to consider fully city-owned broadband, he said.


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