US Telcos and ISPs have started their first wave of legal attacks against the US’s attempts at net neutrality.
In the US the telcos have done all they can to make sure that they can charge their customers twice by insisting that the big internet users have to give them more money to use their tubes. The government has said twice that they can’t and asked the FCC to regulate ISPs and telcos which setup such schemes.
On Monday, US Telecom — a group that includes some of the nation’s largest Internet providers — filed suit in Washington, while Alamo Broadband sued the Federal Communications Commission in New Orleans.
US Telecom President Walter McCormick said in a statement that he did not believe the Federal Communications Commission’s move to utility-style regulation invoking Title II authority is legally sustainable.
Alamo alleges that the FCC’s net neutrality rules apply onerous requirements on it.
“Alamo is thus aggrieved by the order and possesses standing to challenge it,” the company’s lawyers wrote in the petition, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.
The challenges were expected, and it looks like any battle will be a show down between a democratically elected government and the bit corporates who really run things in the US.
However the legal challenges are coming much sooner than expected. Many analysts believed that Internet providers would have to wait until the FCC’s rules were officially published in the Federal Register before being eligible to appeal.
In a statement, the FCC called the petitions “premature and subject to dismissal.” It is unclear whether the FCC will be immediately asking for the cases to be thrown out.
Consumer advocacy groups that had pushed hard for the strong new rules said Title II was “the right law” and insisted that the FCC has a strong case.
European regulators have dropped plans to ban roaming charges and have proposed net neutrality rules allowing privileged access in some cases.
It means that carriers will still be allowed to charge more to use mobiles abroad.
Also worrying are net neutrality rules would bar discrimination in internet access, but allow prioritisation of some services.
This is a watering down of laws first floated in 2013, observers said.
Instead of ending data roaming charges as was promised, the European Commission has recommended that operators be allowed to add surcharges to their domestic rates.
The proposals were said to be “transitional” and mindful of “wholesale costs” incurred by the mobile operators.
In other words it is only temporary and there is nothing to worry about. But, according to Ovum analyst Matthew Howett, they would amount to the continuation of data roaming charges until at least 2018, when European lawmakers would reconsider whether or not to ban them.
He told the BBC that the watering down happened because operators had already introduced more reasonable charges.
The proposals also covered net neutrality rules. Originally the EU sought to ensure that internet users could get online however they wanted and view any legal content they wanted, free from discrimination by their service providers.
Now it seems that there is a provision for specialised services “other than internet access services” to be prioritised if they required high quality internet access to function.
It is not clear what these specialised services are. More optimistic typeshope that it is connected cars and other elements of the internet of things.
The European Commission specified, however, that service providers would have to ensure a good standard of internet access for consumers if they did prioritise such services. This could mean that streaming video content could require users to shell out more cash.
Blackberry is fighting back
against its competitors by asking politicians to step into the apps business.
The company’s CEO John Chen has written to members of the US Congress and is trying to persuade them to force competitors to make their apps available for his company’s own products.
The Canadian company has made its unusual appeal under the banner of net neutrality – a contentious matter in the United States.
Chen wants the politicians to force firms using Apple or Android operations to make their services available to Blackberry users.
Chen believes that the dominance of Apple and Samsung in the mobile market “has created a two tiered wireless broadband” system.
People using iPhones or Android devices can access more content than people using other operating systems, Chen claimed.
“These are precisely the sort of discriminatory practices that neutrality advocates have criticised at the carrier level,” he wrote on his company’s blog
The US National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has written to congressional and Federal Communications Commission leaders to oppose stricter regulations for Internet service providers.
The FCC is hatching out new plans that would dictate internet service providers’ freedom to manage web traffic on their networks, aiming to ensure that ISPs do not discriminate against any content in ways that could harm competition or consumers.
President Barack Obama wants the FCC to have the strictest rules possible to protect net neutrality. He suggested a legal pathway that would reclassify internet service so it is regulated like a utility.
Needless to say the telecom and cable companies think this will stop them from charging their consumers twice for the same service and they say this will be a bad idea.
NAM wrote that current proposals to regulate the Internet with early 20th Century–era laws severely threaten continued growth. It urged everyone to oppose any efforts to regulate the open Internet.
Though business groups NAM and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have both previously submitted comments to the FCC opposing utility-style Internet regulations.
Verizon and AT&T are among 14,000 members of the manufacturers’ association, so we guess we can see where the outfit is coming from.
“The internet and technology is a critical tool for manufacturers to grow their business,” NAM Technology Policy President Brian Raymond said in an interview. “(Our members) get concerned if the government is going to slow down their business in any way and they see this as one of those ways.”
Raymond pointed out that AT&T’s recent tactic of threatening to pause investments in new high-speed internet connections unless it gets is way is proof that an enforced open internet was a bad idea. Of course you could also argue that AT&T is just trying to scare the FCC into doing what it is told and it will lose a lose a lot of money in the long term if it does not move to high-speed internet connections.
“Whenever there’s a pause in investment by any kind of company due to regulatory uncertainty, it’s going to have a trickle-down effect on the whole manufacturing community,” Raymond said.
AT&T is sulking about the FCC and the government not immediately doing what it says over the vexed issue of net-neutrality.
The outfit has said that it will stop investing in gigabit internet “until it has a better idea of what the government will do regarding net neutrality.”
President Barak Obama told the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband as a telecom service rather than an information service in its upcoming net neutrality rules. The move would give the FCC more power to regulate ISPs (like AT&T) and wireless carriers. The FCC said it would think about the issue a bit more and make an announcement next year.
AT&T’s move to demand its ball back is an indication how much pressure the US telcos are heaping on politicians to allow them to charge customers twice for the internet. The telcos fear that they will have to stump up a huge chunk of their profits to pay for the network for an open internet.
Ultra-fast fibre is a carrot that AT&T is waving in the hope that users will demand the right to be charged an arm and a leg for their internet connection. It was supposed to be rolled out to 100 cities nationwide, including 21 major metropolitan areas.
AT&T Chief Randall Stephenson said during an appearance at a Wells Fargo conference that AT&T can’t go out and just invest that kind of money, deploying fibre to 100 cities other than these two million [covered by the DirecTV deal], not knowing under what rules that investment will be governed.
Of course if it does not pull finger there is a chance that Google, along with the city councils of cities might start providing the backbone themselves – something else that the telcos have been pressuring their tame politicians to block.
The fact that AT&T is trying to cut its costs at the moment has absolutely nothing to do with it delaying the fibre scheme.
The FCC has decided that the only way it can keep its chums in the telcos happy and prevent themselves being lynched by an angry public is to delay making a decision on net-neutrality.
The US watchdog, which is staffed by ex-members of companies it is supposed to be watching, is in a bit of a pickle. The US people and President Barack Obama expect it to come out in favour of net neutrality. The only problem is that the US telcos hate the idea which will stop them from creaming shedloads of cash from customers without having to provide much needed infrastructure changes.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government regulatory body that’s spent much of 2014 deliberating whether to make the Internet a public utility has said that it will not vote on open internet rules on the December meeting agenda. That would mean rules would now be finalised in 2015.
Obama campaigned on a promise of net neutrality, the general concept that internet providers should not be able to dictate the rules of how fast customers can access certain sites. However he appointed Tom Wheeler, a former cable lobbyist, to head the FCC which was seen as appointing a fox to run the hen house.
The news that the FCC will delay its decision is particularly devastating for net neutrality proponents, because it means that the telcos can ring up their mates in the Republican-held Congress. The Republicans do not really understand net neutrality Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the issue the “Obamacare for the internet” he later realised that it was too stupid even for a Republican senator that he retracted it. However, the Republicans see it as one of those matters that if Obama wants it, they have to oppose. Besides while the American people might want net neutrality, the telcos do not, and they that will provide the Republicans with campaign contributions to nix the idea.