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FCC Wrestles With Depth, Breadth of Net Neutrality Comments

WASHINGTON, February 8, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission has received thousands of comments both lauding and criticizing its proposed plan to address the controversial issue of network neutrality.



WASHINGTON, February 8, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission has received thousands of comments both lauding and criticizing its proposed plan to address the controversial issue of network neutrality.

The media and communications communities spent hundreds if not thousands of hours carefully crafting their arguments as their members view net neutrality as a linchpin to the future of Internet innovation and economic growth.

Content distributors, consumers and parties concerned about limitations on free speech largely favor net neutrality in their filed comments.

Some content makers also support the concept, but the largest content makers appear to oppose it.

Net neutrality supporters argued that a free and open Internet is necessary for innovation and that a lack of competition among service providers removes market protection from infringement.

“The success of the open Internet as a tool for economic growth and expression belies the premise that service differentiation is necessary or desirable,” submitted the City of Philadelphia’s government.

Sony also believes an open, unfettered Internet is best for the nation’s future: “This investment has been predicated on consumers having unfettered access to the legal content, applications and services of their choice” the electronics giant wrote. “Future investment requires the preservation of this underlying principle to protect the common interests of consumers, network operators, content developers and application providers in the Internet ecosystem. Moreover, SEL believes that ultimately the commission’s proposed network neutrality rules, if implemented, would lead to more expansive broadband deployment and greater consumer uptake of broadband connectivity and services.”

Phone firm Vonage wants the FCC to go further: “It recommends that the commission modify each of the first three principles to clarify that a provider of broadband Internet access service ‘may not prevent or hinder’ users from obtaining lawful content or applications or attaching lawful devices to the network. This change will better capture the harm to consumers that the commission designed these principles to prevent: degradation of service as well as a complete loss of service.”

Skype chimed in with concerns about unfair Internet transmission blockage by carriers: “Evidence suggests that carriers have the incentive and ability to harm innovation in the communications application market either by outright blocking or more subtle forms of discrimination. Because these applications offer consumers additional choice and savings, they should not be delayed, obstructed or throttled by broadband access providers. The commission’s openness policies should apply in a competitively neutral way across all broadband platforms.”

Google also cautioned that lack of an open Internet could harm innovation: “The Internet has created unprecedented benefits and opportunity for every facet of our society.  For this reason, the FCC must take the broadest view when assessing how the assurance of open broadband networks affects risks, investment and innovations associated with broadband infrastructure, and the overlay services, content and applications that ride upon it. In brief, the open Internet drives overall investment and innovation in technology and in other sectors, maximizes free speech and civic participation, and engenders more sources to create the fastest and greatest innovations.”

The Internet search giant also touched on issues surrounding the use of deep packet inspection.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and other commenters brought up the Madison River case: “Already, we have seen some troubling examples of protocol-based discrimination by ISPs. In 2005, Madison River Communications selectively blocked voice-over-IP (VoIP) services that could compete with its wireline telephone services.”

Many of these groups also expressed concern about possible content discrimination. For example, “EFF is also concerned that content-based discrimination may be looming on the horizon. The entertainment industry, for example, has been pressing ISPs to implement network-based measures to address the problem of online copyright infringement.”

DISH Network was one of the few content distributors to support network neutrality. It wrote that: “Nondiscrimination rules are necessary, because vertically-integrated broadband providers have the incentive and ability to discriminate against competitors like DISH. By favoring their own video services or degrading services of competitors, telco and cable providers can drive customers away from competitive direct broadcast satellite services.  Permitting such anticompetitive behavior does not serve the public interest.”

The opposition to network neutrality comes not only from internet service providers but also from those who seek firmer copyright enforcement. The following is a summary of the most common and unusual claims they make.

The Motion Picture Association of America claims to support the principles but pushes further with concerns about content piracy. It says that “to make clear that ISPs are not only permitted, but encouraged, to work with content owners to employ the best available tools and technologies to combat online content theft. Service providers also should be encouraged to work with content owners to implement consumer education programs that can help law-abiding Internet users find legitimate sources for online creative works, while simultaneously warning repeat infringers that they risk consequences if they continue to violate the law.”

AT&T uses some of the strongest language slamming a net neutrality plan, asserting that robust competition already exists: “Unfortunately, the commission’s [notice of proposed rule making] charts an unwise, unwarranted and unprecedented reversal in course.” The telecommunications firms says that “far from being a ‘cozy duopoly’ as some pundits claim, wired broadband Internet access services are robustly competitive, as evidenced by increased speeds, rapidly growing usage, significantly declining prices on a per-bits-consumed basis, and very substantial customer ‘churn’ rates for both cable and telco broadband providers.”

Most of the commenters also say the FCC is trying to solve a problem that does not exist. For example, AT&T adds that “new regulation, moreover, without any credible data-driven evidence of any market failure amid this robust competition.  Instead, it bases its hyper-regulatory proposals solely on the basis of speculation that a market failure might arise someday in the future.”

Verizon Communications and other firms claimed that the inability to manage their network properly would result in overcrowding and potentially a limit on innovation.

Verizon also claimed that net neutrality violates the First and Fifth amendments. “Contrary to claims of net neutrality proponents who assert that government regulations would promote First Amendment interests, the First Amendment protects against governmental restrictions on speech. Here, by restricting providers’ ability to offer their own differentiated services, whether by using their own content or innovative content and services offered in collaboration with others, the proposed rules would impose direct restraints on speech in violation of the First Amendment.”

It said net neutrality would impinge upon the Fifth Amendment by “requiring the compulsory dedication of private property to the use of others with no express statutory authorization and without compensation.”

Comcast, which some in the broadband community believe is the impetus for the FCC’s net neutrality rulemaking, said: “In light of these real risks, rules should only be adopted if a record is built that includes concrete facts and data demonstrating (1) actual – not conjectural – harms that would be remedied by the proposed rules; (2) actual – not hypothetical – benefits that would be gained by adoption of the proposed rules; and (3) that the harms and benefits outweigh the real risks to continued innovation and investment.  To date there is no such record.”

Comcast also finds the rules to do more harm than good: “(1) The proposed rules apply only to a narrow class of Internet service providers, ignoring whether the Internet is “open” at all of its layers; (2) The proposed “nondiscrimination” rule would prohibit network operators from adopting a number of reasonable practices that potentially could have significant benefits for consumers and the public interest; and  (3) The proposed “transparency” rule would create a new and burdensome legal duty for network operators while failing to impose corresponding duties on other key participants in the Internet ecosystem.”

Wireless providers also oppose network neutrality under network management grounds. Their main belief is that wireless networks operate differently from wired networks and so should receive the same regulation. They feel that they must deal with a lower amount of spectrum and must manage their networks more heavily. Additionally, the section on the connectivity of devices is truly something they feel their networks cannot handle. They also believe that their market — unlike the wireline market — is truly competitive with constant price drops and a wide variety of choices along with competition from WiFi hot spots and WiMax.

Pros and Cons Have Merit, But Is FCC Authority at Stake?

While the comments in support and opposition have merit, one of the biggest issues covered by the comments was whether or not the FCC has the authority to take these actions.

The FCC is using authority given it under Title I and II, which say, respectively, that the agency has ancillary authority and can regulate broadcast services. However, Time Warner disagrees: “Having appropriately classified broadband Internet access service as a Title I service, the commission cannot now seek to apply core aspects of Title II by regulatory fiat.”

Verizon said: “In 2005, when the commission confirmed that wireline broadband Internet access service is an information service outside the scope of Title II regulation, it found that such services were “offered by two established platform providers, which continue to expand rapidly, and by several existing and emerging platforms and providers.”

Google and Public Knowledge oppose this view and claim that the FCC does have the authority to provide this regulation. Google says the commission actually has authority under more than just Title I and II – it also can claim authority under Title’s II and VI. Google states: “Communications using last-mile broadband facilities – whether copper, fiber, or wireless – constitute “interstate… communication by wire or radio.” In the Wireline Broadband Order and Cable Modem Declaratory Ruling,  the commission held that it had ancillary jurisdiction over wireline and cable  broadband Internet access service providers, explaining that their “services are unquestionably ‘wire communications’ as defined in [the Act].”

The FCC also has determined in the Wireless Broadband Classification Order that wireless broadband Internet access service, offered using mobile, portable or fixed technologies, is “interstate . . . communications by radio.” Internet-based video programming is now significantly impacting both television broadcasting and cable, altering the economics  of these marketplaces and affecting local programming, diversity of viewpoints, service delivery, and the FCC’s overall regulation in these areas. Broadband Internet access services also enable consumers to place Internet-based VoIP calls to “traditional land-line telephone[s] connected to the public switched telephone network.” The widespread use of VoIP and related services as cheaper and more feature-rich alternatives to Title II services has significant effects on traditional telephone providers’ practices and pricing, as well on network interconnection between Title II and IP networks that consumers use to reach each other, going to the heart of  the Commission’s Title II responsibilities.  In light of the impact of these Internet-based services on services regulated under Titles II, III and VI, as well as the effect upon the FCC’s regulatory framework under those Titles, precedent confirms the FCC may exercise its ancillary jurisdiction to fulfill its explicit mandates. “

The issues surround net neutrality have been discussed for years in both official and unofficial capacities, but with the FCC’s recent proposal of a rulemaking, the concerns have a forum for further discussion and may actually be addressed.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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FCC Institutes ACP Transparency Data Collection

The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels.



Photo of people working on computers, cropped, in 2011 by Victor Grigas

WASHINGTON, November 23, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission last week adopted an order that mandated annual reporting from all providers participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal initiative that subsidizes the internet-service and device costs of low-income Americans.

The FCC order establishing the ACP Transparency Data Collection, not released until Wednesday, requires ACP-affiliated providers to disclose prices, subscription rates, and other plan characteristics on yearly basis. The FCC stated that it will lean on the newly mandated broadband nutrition labels, which, it says, will ease regulatory burdens for providers.

The FCC created the Transparency Data Collection pursuant to the statutory requirements of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. The commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking in June.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile endorsed the nutrition-label method of collection. Industry associations including IMCOMPAS and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Associations warned the FCC against instituting excessive reporting burdens.

“To find out whether this program is working as Congress intended, we need to know who is participating, and how they are using the benefit,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “So we’re doing just that.  The data we collect will help us know where we are, and where we need to go. We’re also standardizing the way we collect data, and looking for other ways to paint a fuller picture of how many eligible households are participating in the ACP.  We want all eligible households to know about this important benefit for affordable internet service.”

Although the ACP is highly touted by the FCC, the White House, and industry experts, there is evidence the fund has been exploited by fraudsters, according to a watchdog. In September, the FCC Office of Inspector General issued a report that found the ACP handed out more than $1 million in improper benefits. In multiple instances, according to the OIG, the information of a qualifying individual was improperly used for hundreds of applications, achieving payouts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last month, Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., contacted 13 leading internet service providers, requesting details on alleged fishy business practices connected to the ACP and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

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Broadband's Impact

Federal Communications Commission Mandates Broadband ‘Nutrition’ Labels

The FCC also mandated that internet service provider labels be machine-readable.



Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday afternoon ordered internet providers to display broadband “nutrition” labels at points of sale that include internet plans’ performance metrics, monthly rates, and other information that may inform consumers’ purchasing decisions.

The agency released the requirement less than 24 hours before it released the first draft of its updated broadband map.

The FCC mandated that labels be machine-readable, which is designed to facilitate third-party data-gathering and analysis. The commission also requires that the labels to be made available in customers’ online portals with the provide the and “accessible” to non-English speakers.

In addition to the broadband speeds promised by the providers, the new labels must also display typical latency, time-of-purchase fees, discount information, data limits, and provider-contact information.

“Broadband is an essential service, for everyone, everywhere. Because of this, consumers need to know what they are paying for, and how it compares with other service offerings,”  FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. 

“For over 25 years, consumers have enjoyed the convenience of nutrition labels on food products.  We’re now requiring internet service providers to display broadband labels for both wireless and wired services.  Consumers deserve to get accurate information about price, speed, data allowances, and other terms of service up front.”

Industry players robustly debated the proper parameters for broadband labels in a flurry of filings with the FCC. Free Press, an advocacy group, argued for machine-readable labels and accommodations for non-English speakers, measures which were largely opposed by trade groups. Free Press also advocated a requirement that labels to be included on monthly internet bills, without which the FCC “risks merely replicating the status quo wherein consumers must navigate fine print, poorly designed websites, and byzantine hyperlinks,” group wrote.

“The failure to require the label’s display on a customer’s monthly bill is a disappointing concession to monopolist ISPs like AT&T and Comcast and a big loss for consumers,” Joshua Stager, policy director of Free Press, said Friday.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association clashed with Free Press in its FCC filing and supported the point-of-sale requirement.

“WISPA welcomes today’s release of the FCC’s new broadband label,” said Vice President of Policy Louis Peraertz. “It will help consumers better understand their internet access purchases, enabling them to quickly see ‘under the hood,’ and allow for an effective apples-to-apples comparison tool when shopping for services in the marketplace.”

Image of the FCC’s sample broadband nutrition label

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FCC to Establish New Space Bureau, Chairwoman Says

‘The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head.’



Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, via

WASHINGTON, November 3, 2022 — The Federal Communications Commission will add a new space bureau that will modernize regulations and facilitate innovation, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday.

The new bureau is intended to facilitate American leadership in the space economy, boost the Commission’s technical capacity, and foster interagency cooperation, Rosenworcel said, speaking at the National Press Club.

“The new space age has turned everything we know about how to deliver critical space-based services on its head,” Rosenworcel said. “But the organizational structures of the [FCC] have not kept pace,” she added.

The space economy is “on a monumental run” of growth and innovation, the chairwoman argued, and the FCC must remodel itself to facilitate continued growth. Rosenworcel said the commission is currently reviewing 64,000 new satellite applications, and she further noted that 98 percent of all satellites launched in 2021 provided internet connectivity. By the end off 2022, operators will set a new record for satellites launched into orbit, she said.

The FCC will not take on new responsibilities, Rosenworcel said, but the announced restructuring will help the agency “perform[] existing statutory responsibilities better.” In September, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R–Wash., warned the FCC against overreaching its statutory mandate and voiced support for robust congressional oversight – a position reiterated by House staffers Wednesday.

“The formation of a dedicated space bureau within the FCC is a positive step for satellite operators and customers across the United States,” said Julie Zoller, head of global regulatory affairs at Amazon’s satellite broadband Project Kuiper, on a panel following Rosenworcel’s announcement.

“An important part of [Rosenworcel’s] space agenda is ensuring that there is a competitive environment in all aspects of that space,” said Umair Javed, the chairwoman’s chief counsel, during the panel. “So we’ve taken action to update our rules on spectrum sharing to make sure that there are opportunities for multiple systems to be successful in low Earth orbit.

“We’ve granted a number of experimental authorizations to companies that are doing really new…things,” Umair continued.

The FCC in September required that low–Earth orbit satellite debris be removed within five years of mission completion, a move Rosenworcel said would clear the way for new innovation.

In August, the FCC revoked an $885 million grant to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite-broadband service. FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington criticized the reversal, and Starlink has since appealed it.

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