Category Archives: Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality Could Be Challenged On Dec. 4

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On Dec. 4 a federal appeals court in Washington will hear arguments over the Obama administration’s net neutrality rule. This upcoming hearing may unravel the FCCs 3-2 vote that placed strong net neutrality protections essentially saying internet service providers could not block websites or impose limits on users.

Even though President Obama endorsed what is being called “net neutrality,” broadband providers like Verizon Communications and AT&T filed federal lawsuits causing a Federal Appeals court to strike down the FCC implemented regulations. Since this motion on January 14, 2014 the Obama Administration has worked endlessly alongside the FCC to enact stronger net neutrality rules in February 2015 “so the next Google and the next Facebook can succeed.”

On Friday, Dec. 4 the FCC’s most recent set of rules safeguarding Internet neutrality will be challenged in the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit. The hearing will last for 2-hours and 20-minutes during which time three judges will hear oral arguments before ruling in favor or against the February FCC rule. If the judges are against the ruling it could lead to Internet providers favoring some websites over others for access and speed because they are capable of paying more.

Check out the details for the hearing here and the timeline for net neutrality here.

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Comcast launches streaming TV service that doesn’t count against its data caps

John Brodkin at Ars Technica: Comcast’s live streaming TV service has launched in the Boston and Chicago areas, with plans to bring it to Comcast’s entire cable territory by early next year.

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We asked Comcast today if Stream TV usage will count against the 300GB data plans imposed in certain parts of Comcast’s territory. “No, Stream is an IP cable service delivered over our managed network to the home,” a Comcast spokesperson replied.

Comcast also pointed Ars to an FAQ that says, “Stream TV is a cable streaming service delivered over Comcast’s cable system, not over the Internet. Therefore, Stream TV data usage will not be counted towards your Xfinity Internet monthly data usage.”

Stream TV also doesn’t use a customer’s allotted Internet bandwidth, as measured in bits per second, Comcast told Ars. For example, a Comcast customer who pays for 50Mbps Internet speed would still have a full 50Mbps for other online services while using Stream TV.

Stream TV is intended for Comcast’s Internet-only customers, offering live TV on computers, tablets, and phones. In-home streaming video is delivered as a managed service over the Comcast IP gateway in customers’ homes and works similarly to cable TV—despite not requiring a cable TV subscription or set-top box—potentially providing greater video quality than rival streaming services. Sling TV customers, for example, have experienced several outages.

Comcast has steadily introduced monthly data caps into new areas, testing customers’ responses before a potential nationwide rollout.

There is no specific rule preventing an Internet service provider from exempting its own streaming video from data caps, even though such a practice could disadvantage competing services that deliver video to customers over the Internet. However, the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules allow for complaints against so-called zero-rating schemes, with the commission judging on a case-by-case basis whether a practice “unreasonably interferes” with the ability of consumers to reach content or the ability of content providers to reach consumers.

The net neutrality rules also have an exemption for “non-broadband” services, or “IP-services that do not travel over broadband Internet access service.”

An FCC spokesperson declined comment on Comcast’s streaming video service not counting against Comcast data caps.

When Comcast bought NBCUniversal, it signed an agreement with the government that says if Comcast offers capped or metered Internet service, it can’t treat its own network traffic differently from rivals’ traffic. But that apparently doesn’t apply to Stream TV since the in-home streaming isn’t traveling over the public Internet.

Netflix, the biggest online video provider in the country, has previously criticized Comcast’s caps but declined comment when contacted by Ars today.

“Stream TV” costs $15 a month and lets customers watch live TV channels while on Comcast home Internet connections. It doesn’t provide the same flexibility as streaming services like Netflix or Sling TV, which work the same on any Internet connection. Outside of the home, Stream TV offers access to on-demand and recorded videos, and customers can use their Comcast username and password to sign into channel-specific applications like HBO Go.

The service launch comes as Comcast continues to add Internet subscribers while dropping TV subscriptions. In Q3 2015, Comcast gained 320,000 broadband subscriptions for a total of 22.87 million, while losing 48,000 cable TV subscribers, dropping to 22.26 million. The thirteen largest pay-TV providers overall lost 190,000 video subscribers in the quarter, up from a loss of 155,000 in the same period a year ago, according to Leichtman Research Group.

Sources:

Ars Technica: Comcast launches streaming TV service that doesn’t count against data caps

Comcast: Stream TV

Porn filters will soon be illegal in Europe, but the UK has no plans to comply

Matt Burgess at Wired UK: Automatic porn filters will be made “law of the land”, David Cameron has said.

The prime minister’s intervention to bolster porn filtering powers follows the European Parliament‘s introduction of net neutrality regulations, which will ban the current porn filtering agreement. ISPs will now be forced to implement and maintain the controversial porn filters, the government has said.

Critics of the EU bill argued it didn’t provide strong enough protections from companies abusing the management of the internet but widely the decision says the internet should be provided without “interference or discrimination”.

Reports had warned anti-discrimination rules would mean the optional porn filter agreement with ISPs wouldn’t be lawful.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Cameron said he realised the knock-on effect from the EU bill over breakfast. “When I read my Daily Mail this morning, I sputtered over my cornflakes because we worked so hard to put in place these filters,” he told fellow MPs. But as a counter to the EU ruling Cameron reiterated to MPs that it was “vitally important that we enable parents to have that protection for their children”. Cameron continued: “I can tell the House that we will legislate to put our agreement with internet companies into the law of the land so that our children will be protected.”

According to the prime minister the government “secured an opt-out” from the EU to allow the “family friendly filters” to continue for now. It isn’t yet clear when the new law will be introduced.

In 2013 the prime minister put considerable pressure on ISPs to introduce automatic, but voluntary, porn filters. At the time he said every household in the UK would have to opt-out of porn filters by the end of 2014 if they wanted to view the material and that online pornography was “corroding childhood”.

At first the public Wi-Fi networks had filters imposed on them before BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media started to introduce the filters on home broadband connections. 

Sky is blocking adult websites for all customers by default, new BT customers also have filters turned on, and TalkTalk has started to turn the settings on by default.

Previously, the Conservatives have voiced plans to introduced age-verification on “all sites containing pornographic material,” meaning that everyone would need to provide their personal details when wanting to access the material.

Sources:

Wired UK: Automatic porn filters to be made ‘law of the land’

The Independent: EU rules UK’s ‘porn filters’ are illegal

European Parliament votes against net neutrality amendments

Katie Collins at Cnet: The European Parliament passes legislation that would let companies pay to prioritize their Internet traffic. Opponents included Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and the likes of Netflix and Reddit.

The European Parliament has rejected key rules designed to secure the future of the open Internet, potentially threatening the way residents get their online fix.

Members of the European Parliament voted Tuesday to allow companies to pay for the privilege of having their traffic prioritized in “fast lanes” and did not eliminate the potential for Internet service providers to change traffic speeds.

For consumers, that could over time prove disruptive to their daily habits of watching streaming video, uploading photos to social media sites or doing online shopping. Some services could bog down if providers don’t pay for access to higher Internet speeds, or speedy services could end up costing more.

Four significant amendments were rejected just before the Parliament voted to adopt legislation governing Net neutrality, the concept that all online traffic should be treated equally. A premise behind Net neutrality is that every company can start on equal footing when competing in the digital economy.

The rejected amendments were supported by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and a long list of rights groups, academics and businesses, including Netflix, Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy and BitTorrent. In a blog post ahead of the vote, Berners-Lee reminded politicians that he built the Web on the principle of openness and that this principle led to its current ubiquity.

The amendments ensure “economic growth and social progress” in Europe, he said in a blog post. Rejecting them would “threaten innovation, free speech and privacy, and compromise Europe’s ability to lead in the digital economy,” he added.

What will now follow is a nine-month consultation period during which rights groups and regulators will seek to clarify the legal text and to establish how the Internet should be governed.

Sources:

Cnet – European votes puts Net neutrality in peril

Web Foundation – Net Neutrality in Europe: A Statement from Sir Tim Berners-Lee