Jon Brodkin

FCC struggles to convince judge that broadband isn’t “telecommunications”

Federal Communications Commission General Counsel Thomas Johnson faced a skeptical panel of judges of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit as he defended the agency's repeal of net neutrality rules and deregulation of the broadband industry.

Senate votes to overturn Ajit Pai’s net neutrality repeal

The US Senate voted to reverse the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of net neutrality. The Senate approved a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would simply undo the FCC's December 2017 vote to deregulate the broadband industry.

FCC won’t delay vote, says net neutrality supporters are “desperate”

The Federal Communications Commission will move ahead with its vote to kill network neutrality rules Dec 14 despite an unresolved court case that could strip away even more consumer protections. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says that net neutrality rules aren't needed because the Federal Trade Commission can protect consumers from broadband providers. But a pending court case involving AT&T could strip the FTC of its regulatory authority over AT&T and similar ISPs.

Examining the FCC claim that DDoS attacks hit net neutrality comment system

On May 8, when the Federal Communications Commission website failed and many people were prevented from submitting comments about network neutrality, the cause seemed obvious. Comedian John Oliver had just aired a segment blasting FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to gut net neutrality rules, and it appeared that the site just couldn't handle the sudden influx of comments. But when the FCC released a statement explaining the website's downtime, the commission didn't mention the Oliver show or people submitting comments opposing Pai's plan. Instead, the FCC attributed the downtime solely to "multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS)." These were "deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC's comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host," performed by "actors" who "were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather, they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC." The FCC has faced skepticism from net neutrality activists who doubt the website was hit with multiple DDoS attacks at the same time that many new commenters were trying to protest the plan to eliminate the current net neutrality rules. According to FCC CIO David Bray, FCC staff noticed high comment volumes around 3:00 AM the morning of Monday, May 8. As the FCC analyzed the log files, it became clear that non-human bots created these comments automatically by making calls to the FCC's API. Interestingly, the attack did not come from a botnet of infected computers but was fully cloud-based. By using commercial cloud services to make massive API requests, the bots consumed available machine resources, which crowded out human commenters. In effect, the bot swarm created a distributed denial-of-service attack on FCC systems using the public API as a vehicle. It's similar to the distributed denial of service attack on Pokemon Go in July 2016.

COVID Is Over, Apparently: ISPs Are Bringing Back Broadband Data Caps

Major internet service providers will resume data caps on broadband and data usage, as commitments to remove them in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire. This is occurring as the coronavirus continues to spread, and many workers and students are still working remotely in an effort to curb the virus’s spread through social distancing. Many Americans are still using high-bandwidth video chat software such as Zoom, Facetime, and Google Hangouts to keep in touch with loved ones and to do their jobs.

FCC helps Charter avoid broadband competition

The Federal Communications Commission is helping Charter avoid broadband competition in New York State with a decision that will block government funding for other broadband providers in locations where Charter is required to build. The FCC plans to award providers up to $16 billion over 10 years from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) in a reverse auction scheduled to begin in October.

T-Mobile already trying to get out of merger conditions on 5G and hiring

T-Mobile is already trying to get out of merger conditions imposed by state regulators in California less than three months after completing its acquisition of Sprint. T-Mobile filed a petition with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), asking the agency to provide two extra years to meet 5G build-out requirements and to eliminate a requirement to add 1,000 new employees. T-Mobile, which had agreed to other conditions imposed by the federal government, completed the Sprint merger on April 1 without waiting for California's approval.

Chairman Pai caves to SpaceX but is still skeptical of Elon Musk’s latency claims

The Federal Communications Commission has reversed course on whether to let SpaceX and other satellite providers apply for rural-broadband funding as low-latency providers. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said companies like SpaceX will have to prove they can offer low latencies, as the FCC does not plan to "fund untested technologies."  Chairman Pai's original proposal classified SpaceX and all other satellite operators as high-latency providers for purposes of the funding distribution, saying the companies haven't proven they can deliver latencies below the FCC standard of 100ms.

Cox slows Internet speeds in entire neighborhoods to punish any heavy users

Cox Communications is lowering Internet upload speeds in entire neighborhoods to stop what it considers "excessive usage," in a decision that punishes both heavy Internet users and their neighbors. Cox, a cable company with about 5.2 million broadband customers in the United States, has been sending notices to some heavy Internet users warning them to use less data and notifying them of neighborhood-wide speed decreases.

Small ISP cancels data caps permanently after reviewing pandemic usage

The coronavirus pandemic caused big Internet service providers to put data caps on hold for a few months, but one small ISP is going a big step further and canceling the arbitrary monthly limits permanently. Antietam Broadband, which serves Washington County in Maryland, announced that it "has permanently removed broadband data usage caps for all customers," retroactive to mid-March when the company first temporarily suspended data-cap overage fees.