Zero Tolerance

As the FCC awaits the fate of its open internet order (a.k.a. net neutrality) in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, language that could have mooted much of the legal case by limiting the commission’s authority to regulate internet access was stripped at the last minute from the 2000-page omnibus spending bill unveiled by congressional leaders Tuesday night to keep the government running into 2016.

The removal of the rider was a blow to ISPs, which had lobbied to keep the language in the spending bill, but net neutrality advocates have found plenty of other things to complain about lately regarding the behavior of ISPs. Top of the charts: the growing number of streaming services ISPs are selectively exempting from data caps.

FCC_buildingIn just the past three months:

  • T-Mobile introduced its Binge On plan, which allows mobile users to stream video from roughly two-dozen “partner” services, including Netflix, HBO Now, Sling TV, MLB.tv, Showtime and Starz, without those bits counting against a subscriber’s data cap;
  • Comcast launched Stream TV in a handful of markets, a live and on-demand streaming service that, unlike Netflix, for instance will not count against Comcast subscribers’ data caps where those are in place (as no doubt they soon will be everywhere);
  • Verizon launched Go90, its in-house streaming service for which data usage is “sponsored” by advertisers and therefore isn’t counted toward the user’s data cap;
  • AT&T hinted broadly that it, too, will launch a mobile streaming service that, like Verizon’s Go90, would be “sponsored” by someone other than the user.

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Net Neutrality: Interconnection Covered, But Not By ‘Bright Line’ Rules

After a flurry of last-minute lobbying and internal debate the FCC ultimately backed off its plan to define interconnection arrangements between ISPs and third-party content and applications providers as distinct service separate from last-mile internet access service in its Open Internet order, which it approved today by a 3-2 party line vote. But the commission asserted its authority under Title II of the Communications Act to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if it determines that specific interconnection practices by ISPs are not “just and reasonable.”

ppcommissioners-nov-2013-webThe decision to drop the separate classification of the service that ISPs make available to edge providers marks an apparent shift from the proposal outlined in the Feb. 4 fact sheet released by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, which referred to interconnection and last-mile service separately. But it eliminates the potential legal problem for the commission’s authority to review interconnection arrangements that separate classification could have created. Read More »

For OTT providers, ‘strong’ Net Neutrality may be losing its strength

Don’t look now OTT fans but the net neutrality rules expected to be enacted Thursday by the FCC may turn out to be not as OTT-friendly as it originally appeared they would be.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn

When FCC chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled his “fact sheet” on the upcoming rules on Feb. 4, it looked as if the commission was poised to adopt the “strong” version of net neutrality pushed by Netflix and others. According to the fact sheet, the rules would treat interconnection arrangements between ISPs and third-party edge providers as a Title II service subject to the same “just and reasonable” standard that will apply to ISPs’ management of their last-mile networks. Read More »

The next OTT battleground: Zero-rating

The FCC this week is expected to approve on a party-line vote chairman Tom Wheeler’s long-gestating plan to impose new net neutrality rules by reclassifying internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, setting in motion a process by which the world will finally get to see the full text of the 308-page Memorandum and Order and begin fighting — almost certainly in court — over its particulars.

TMO1-1149_Baracuda_ALL_R13_03-03One thing that apparently will not be in the order, however, is any bright-line rule banning so-called “zero-rated” data plans offered by wireless operators and ISPs under which particular applications are not counted toward a user’s monthly data cap. Read More »