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.

Couple bought home in Seattle, then learned Comcast Internet would cost $27,000

When Zachary Cohn and his wife bought a house in the Northgate neighborhood of Seattle (WA), they didn't expect any trouble getting home Internet service. It was only after closing on the house in July 2019 that they learned the bad news. "All six neighbors I share a property line with are wired for Comcast, but our house never was," Cohn said. Comcast had wired up the neighborhood with cable decades earlier and provides high-speed broadband to the abutting properties.

Federal appeals court reinstates Texas social media law

A federal appeals court has reinstated a Texas state law that bans "censorship" on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing Texas to enforce the law while litigation continues. A US District Court judge had granted a preliminary injunction blocking the law in December 2021, ruling that it violates the social networks' First Amendment right to moderate user-submitted content.

Elon Musk, Twitter’s next owner, provides his definition of “free speech”

Elon Musk has claimed he is buying Twitter in order to protect free speech. But what does Musk mean by "free speech"? "By 'free speech,' I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people." There are multiple ways to interpret Musk's statement as it relates to United States law, particularly the First Amendment.

Comcast trying to “torpedo” Biden FCC pick Gigi Sohn, advocacy group says

Comcast's hiring of a new lobbyist is part of an attempt to "torpedo" President Joe Biden's nomination of Gigi Sohn [Senior Fellow and Public Advocate at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] to the Federal Communications Commission, according to advocacy group Free Press. "Comcast just hired a lobbying firm to try to torpedo Gigi Sohn's nomination to the FCC," said Free Press.

SpaceX abandons Starlink plan that Amazon objected to, but fight isn’t over

SpaceX has abandoned a Starlink plan that Amazon objected to during a high-profile battle at the Federal Communications Commission in 2021, and wants to launch its second-generation broadband satellites starting in March 2022. But the dispute isn't over, as Amazon says that SpaceX's latest filing "raises a number of issues that call for analysis and a potential response" and asked the FCC for a month-long delay before comments are due.

Verizon overrides users’ opt-out preferences in push to collect browsing history

Verizon is automatically enrolling customers in a new version of a program that scans mobile users' browser histories—even when those same users previously opted out of the program when it had a different name. The carrier recently announced changes to its "Verizon Selects" program along with a new name. "Verizon Custom Experience Plus is the new name of our Verizon Selects program," Verizon said in a FAQ.