Jon Brodkin

FCC bid to boost broadband competition faces attack over “constitutionality”

The Federal Communications Commission will face a lawsuit if it tries to invalidate state laws that restrict the ability of cities and towns to offer Internet service, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Such a move would infringe on states' rights protected by the Constitution, the group claimed.

Chairman Wheeler has said he intends to "preempt state laws that ban competition from community broadband," relying on authority detailed in a court decision that overturned the FCC's network neutrality rules. These state laws make it difficult or impossible for municipalities to create their own broadband networks that compete against private Internet service providers like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.

Deaf advocacy groups to Verizon: Don’t kill net neutrality on our behalf

The absence of network neutrality rules isn't just good for Verizon -- it's also good for the blind, deaf, and disabled, Verizon claims. Now, advocacy groups for deaf people have filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission saying they don't agree with Verizon's position.

"While we strongly believe that Internet-based services and applications must be made accessible, we also believe that doing so is possible on an open network and without the need for broadband providers to specifically identify traffic from accessibility applications and separate it out for special treatment,” the filing said.

The comments were filed by Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; the National Association of the Deaf; the Hearing Loss Association of America; Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network; and Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access.

AT&T supports a “fast lane” ban as long as it contains a giant loophole

The common wisdom is that the Federal Communications Commission can't issue stronger open Internet rules unless it re-classifies broadband as a telecommunications service, which would open ISPs up to utility-style, common carrier regulations under Title II of the Communications Act.

AT&T has vehemently argued against Internet service being treated like a utility. And now, despite that court ruling, AT&T claims that the FCC can ban fast lanes or "paid prioritization" without reclassifying broadband. However, AT&T's argument includes a big loophole that would actually allow extensive paid prioritization.

AT&T claims the FCC could implement a fast lane ban and still comply with the court ruling "by concluding that paid prioritization is a per se commercially unreasonable practice under the theory that it threatens the open Internet."

Verizon claims common carrier rules would require Web services to pay ISPs

Verizon is making an alarmist argument in its response to the Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality proposal. Classification of broadband as a common carrier service -- a step called for by public interest groups who want to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from charging Web services for faster access to consumers -- would instead require ISPs to charge Netflix, YouTube, and other Web services for network access, Verizon claims.

In addition, Verizon thinks the new no-blocking rule could end up being too strict if the FCC applies what's known as a "reasonable person" standard. Verizon's take on the FCC's new net neutrality proposal is an important one, because Verizon is the company that sued the FCC over its original neutrality rules from 2010, winning a ruling that invalidated most of the rules.

How Comcast became a powerful -- and controversial -- part of the Internet backbone

There’s no bigger Internet service provider in the United States than Comcast, and perhaps none is more controversial. Comcast has built a network that is a huge part of the Internet backbone in the United States.

Barry Tishgart, the vice president of Comcast Wholesale network services, argued that Comcast’s opponents are distorting the facts when they say Netflix’s payment to Comcast was unprecedented and when they claim that Comcast shouldn’t receive such payments because it doesn’t operate a “global” network that connects to every part of the Internet.

It was “frustrating” that “people made the deal between Comcast and Netflix out to be unprecedented or new, that a content company -- Netflix is an aggregation of a lot of content -- would have a deal with a Comcast, but in fact that's been going on for a long time, and it's also been widely reported,” Tishgart said.

Federal Communications Commission too poor to build a good website

The Federal Communications Commission had a $450 million budget in fiscal 2014, which ends September 30. Among other things, the FCC's 2015 budget request includes $9.2 million for "modernization of aging IT systems."

"About 40% of the FCC's application portfolio is more than 10 years old, and 70% of the IT portfolio depends on [deprecated], legacy technologies," the budget request states. The FCC also requested an extra $625,000 for Enforcement Bureau equipment.

The FCC is funded entirely by regulatory fees and auction revenue, but Congress and the President decide how much the commission can spend.

Rep Blackburn defends “states’ rights” to protect ISPs from muni competition

Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wants to make sure the Federal Communications Commission never interferes with "states' rights" to protect private Internet service providers from having to compete against municipal broadband networks.

She proposed an amendment to a general government appropriations bill that would prohibit taxpayer funds from being used by the FCC to preempt state laws governing municipal broadband.

Netflix performance on Verizon FiOS dropped another 17 percent in June

Verizon Internet customers who want to watch Netflix at high quality and without interruption just can't catch a break. While Comcast subscribers saw near-immediate speed improvements after Netflix paid for a direct connection to the Comcast network, Netflix performance on Verizon remains poor -- and it's getting worse.

Comcast spent months preparing network connections with Netflix -- Verizon didn't. Netflix's latest ISP speed rankings show that the average prime time streaming speed on Verizon FiOS dropped from 1.9Mbps in May to 1.58Mbps in June, a decline of 17 percent. Verizon DSL dropped from 1.05Mbps to 0.91Mbps, a decrease of 13 percent.

Verizon’s “deteriorated” phone lines cited in demand for investigation

Dozens of lawmakers, municipal officials, and consumer advocacy groups want a thorough investigation of New York's phone system, accusing Verizon of raising prices substantially while allowing landline service to deteriorate throughout the state.

Rate deregulation has harmed customers, the lawmakers and groups wrote in a petition to the New York Public Service Commission (PSC). Verizon has been shifting wireline service from copper to fiber and building out its cellular network, but in the process it's leaving many consumers behind, the petition claims.

The letter quotes New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and previous PSC documents that say Verizon failed to meet quality standards. The petition was signed by 49 State Assembly members (out of 150), seven State Senate members (out of 63), and a member of Congress, US Rep Tim Bishop (D-NY).

Mayors and other officials representing a dozen cities, towns, and counties signed the letter, as did consumer advocacy groups including the AARP and Common Cause New York. The letter was also signed by the New York State AFL-CIO and a Communications Workers of America representative.

Time Warner Cable customers beg regulators to block sale to Comcast

New York is shaping up as a major battleground for Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

While the $45.2 billion merger will be scrutinized by federal officials, it also needs approval at the state level.

TWC has 2.2 million cable TV, Internet, and phone customers in 1,150 New York communities, and hundreds of them have called on the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) to block the sale to Comcast. Comcast doesn't compete against TWC for subscribers, and its territory in New York is limited but includes a VoIP phone service offered to residential and business customers in 10 communities.

"Both Time Warner Cable and Comcast already have monopolies in each and every territory in which they do business today, and combining the companies will reinforce those individual territorial monopolies under a single corporate umbrella, with NBC-Universal thrown in to boot," resident Frank Brice argued in a comment to the PSC posted. Brice complained that "The constant, yearly rate increases imposed on us by Time Warner Cable are and continue to be outrageous, outsized, and unwarranted. "Given where I live in the mid-Hudson valley, 100 miles from New York City and 50 miles from Albany, I cannot get over-the-air TV broadcasts, and I have no choice in my cable-TV provider unless I choose a satellite provider." Brice is "so unhappy with Time Warner Cable" that he buys DSL Internet and phone service from Verizon, which hasn't built FiOS in his area.

Brice's comment is similar to many others submitted by residents to the PSC's merger proceeding.