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Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission Oral Argument Today on Net Neutrality

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Net Neutrality by

September 9, 2013 – Monday marks the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ long-awaited oral arguments in Verizon Communication’s challenge to Federal Communications Commission’s 2008 rules governing network neutrality, or rules requiring that internet companies not offer discounted services for web businesses that prioritize traffic over their particular internet networks.

On Friday, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute hosted a discussion on the topic. And on Monday at noon, TechFreedom is hosting a debrief on the argument. The livestream starts at 12:15 ET, at http://netneutralitydebrief.eventbrite.com or http://techfreedom.org/post/58791178707/debrief-luncheon-after-net-neutrality-appellate

At Monday's NTIA/RUS Open Meeting, A Debate About Eligibility for Funds

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

News | NTIA-RUS Forum | Day 1, Session 1

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2009 – The detail-oriented open meetings to consider the structure for deploying the federal government’s $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds began on Monday morning with five presentations about which sorts of private-sector entities should be eligible for the grants.

Speaking at the Commerce Department’s auditorium in a joint meeting of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service, representatives of the technology industry urged the most liberal interpretation of the federal stimulus legislation’s provisions that successful applicants be deemed to be in the “public interest.”

“We think that the congressional intent is not to preclude anyone from applying,” said Grant Seiffert, president of the Telecommunications Industry Association. “I don’t think that Congress wanted to exclude anyone.”

Taking the strictest view of eligibility was Debbie Goldman, telecommunications policy director of the Communications Workers of America. Goldman said that applicants should have “the endorsement of a state or political subdivision”; shall demonstrate financial, technical, managerial and operational qualification; and that the application will “result in sustainable and quality job creation and economic development.”

Somewhere in between those poles were the positions taken by the telecommunications carriers, the states, and a spokesman for a non-profit group.

“The goals of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) will be furthered if any provider of broadband service and infrastructure is eligible for a grant,” said Curt Stamp, president of the Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance, but speaking for a wide variety of carrier groups.

Stamp said that providers should be eligible to apply for a grant if they have either “an FCC license, a state certificate of public convenience and necessity, a cable franchise, or similar government authorization, or otherwise provides broadband services under applicable federal, state and local laws.”

Such a standard would allow incumbent carriers to be eligible – but most pose a barrier to entry for new entrants. Under audience questioning, he said that companies without such certfication would be able to get funding, but should be scrutinized more strictly by the NTIA.

Different standards were articulated by Sasha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative of the New America Foundation, and Betty Ann Kane, chairwoman of the D.C. public service commission.

Meinrath said: “diversity and heterogeneity of business models is critically important to ensure universal, affordable broadband access.” He said that there is a divide between the dynamics of selecting on-the-ground entities that could build out broadband, and crafting a strict “public interest” rule that could end up excluding needed players.

Meinrath was critical of Goldman’s standard, saying that “predatory pricing and redlining were happening in many portions of the country,” and that new players were needed to shake up the mix of broadband providers.

Betty Ann Kane, speaking on behalf of the National Association of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners, said that the eligibility standard was met by “an entity is applying to serve otherwise unserved citizens (where unserved means no facilities-based internet access other than dial-up or satellite-based access) or the entity’s offering would improve the quality or affordability of broadband in an area.”

She also said that it should be clear that state entities should apply for the grants.

Google Enters Free Speed Test Marketplace with Academic Collaboration

in Broadband Data by

WASHINGTON, January 27, 2009 – Search giant Google is preparing to enter the market for free broadband speed tests, through a collaboration with the university research consortium PlanetLab, and the New America Foundation.

Google is set to announce the collaboration on Wednesday, at an event at the New America Foundation in Washington, and keynoted by Vint Cerf, vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google.

Google follows BroadbandCensus.com, which launched in January 2008, in providing a free internet speed tests to consumers.

BroadbandCensus.com’s speed test allows internet uses to test actual speeds and compare them to the speeds that are promised by their internet providers.

Google and the other participants in the research consortium will be using the same speed test – the Network Diagnostic Tool of Internet2 – that was deployed by BroadbandCensus.com beginning in February 2008.

As with BroadbandCensus.com, Google apparently seeks to make the data publicly available, as a means of providing transparency into the operations of internet providers.

“Transparency has always been an essential component of the Internet’s success,” reads the press release announcing Wednesday’s event. “To remedy today’s information gap, researchers need resources to develop new analytical tools.”

“At this event, speakers will discuss the importance of advancing research in network measurement tools and introduce new developments that will benefit end-users, innovators, and policymakers,” reads the release.

The organizational framework for the speed tests and other network tools is to be called the Measurement Lab, and is expected to be hosted through PlanetLab at Princeton University.

Among the individuals also scheduled to speak at the event include Larry Peterson, chair of the Department of Computer Science at Princeton, and Princeton Professor Ed Felten, director of the Center for Information Technology Policy.

In addition to the NDT speed test, the Measurement Lab will allow internet users to use two additional tests, “Glasnost,” developed by the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, in Kaiserlautern and Saarbrucken, Germany, and the NPAD diagnostic service, Pathdiag, developed by the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

According to the Max Plank Institute web site, Glastnost “creates a BitTorrent-like transfer between your machine and our server, and determines whether or not your [internet service provider] is limiting such traffic. This is a first step towards making traffic manipulation by ISPs more transparent to their customers.”

In fall 2007, through tests conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Comcast was found to have been interfering in the packet transfers by users of BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer software system. After a complaint, the FCC punished Comcast in August 2008.

Comcast’s system of network management – which the cable operator says it has discontinued – became Exhibit A in the battle over network neutrality, or the procedures by which broadband carriers can prioritize internet traffic.

Over the past several years, Google has opposed attempts by carriers to circumvent Net neutrality.

According to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center web site, NPAD’s Pathdiag “is designed to easily and accurately diagnose problems in the last-mile network and end-systems that are the most common causes of all severe performance degradation over long end-to-end paths.”

“Our goal is to make the test procedures easy enough and the report it generates clear enough to be suitable for end-users who are not networking experts,” the PSC web site continues.

Google, PlanetLab, New America Foundation and the software engineers that designed each of the three tools are involved in the new venture.

“We are listed as an advisory board” to the project, said Rich Carlson, a network engineer at Internet2. “Google is providing some rackspace. Google is providing the funding to purchase the hardware, and the network connectivity to connect [the tests] to the commercial internet.”

BroadbandCensus.com’s goal in allowing internet users to test their speeds is to provide a publicly-available repository of speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition in measuring local broadband.

In Taking the Broadband Census, individuals answer a brief questionnaire about their location, their carriers and the quality of service. They are also invited to comment on their carrier.

Information about all speed tests conducted on BroadbandCensus.com are immediately publicly available, both by carrier and by ZIP code, after the tests are concluded. All the content on BroadbandCensus.com is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, allowing it to be republished and reused for free by academics and by local government agencies.

BroadbandCensus.com reported about its experience using the Internet2’s NDT speed test, and made a presentation about its findings at an Internet2/Joint Techs Conference in Lincoln, Neb., in July 2008.

Carlson said he believes that Google will also make its data publicly available. “My intention is to make that data available, as soon as possible.”

Carlson said that he and Internet2 believed it was important to “get the data collection started, and see what kind of community resources can be put to bear, to do some analysis” about internet traffic.

Other academic organizations, including Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program, have also used the NDT speed test, which is open source software. Speed test data from eCorridors is also publicly available.

Google announced its interest in the speed test marketplace at Supernova conference in June 2008, and the collaboration apparently took root after an invitation-only conference Google organized in Mountain View, Calif., in the summer of 2008.

More details are expected to be made available at the Wednesday New America Foundation event.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt is chairman of the New America Foundation, and Schmidt personally has made significant financial contributions to the think tank.

The Foundation has taken stances congruent with positions that Google been pushing. For example, the think tank strongly advocated for the FCC to make vacant television channels available for unlicensed use by internet devices, a position endorsed by Google.

Editor’s Note

Internet2 provided technical direction about deploying a speed test to BroadbandCensus.com, and the eCorridors Program at Virginia Tech has provided encouragement and technical advice in taking the Broadband Census to a national audience. See BroadbandCensus.com supporters.

White Spaces Battle Heats Up as Broadcast Networks Seek 'Time Out'

in Wireless by

WASHINGTON, October 23 – The top executives of the four major broadcast networks on Thursday urged the head of the Federal Communications Commission to delay a vote on a politically simmering issue that pits broadcasters against Google and high-tech executives.

In the letter, the CEOs of CBS Corp., NBC Universal and Walt Disney, and the chief operating officer of News Corp., urge that the FCC exercise caution before taking irreparable action with regard to the vacant television channels known as “white spaces.”

Google and the other technology executives, including Microsoft, Motorola, Philips and others, want the FCC to authorize electronic devices that capable of transmitting internet signals over vacant television bands.

The network executives – CBS’s Leslie Moonves, Disney’s Robert Iger, NBC’s Jeffrey Zucker and Peter Chernin of News Corp. – want a time out.

They join their local broadcasting colleagues, as well as manufacturers and users of wireless microphones, like the National Football League and Boadway theater owners, who have been actively lobbying the issue.

[...]

Read the rest of the story at my blog, DrewClark.com – The Politics of Telecom, Media and Technology

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