Jon Brodkin

AT&T claims common carrier rules would ruin the whole Internet

AT&T urged the Federal Communications Commission to avoid reclassifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service, which is something network neutrality advocates are asking the FCC to do.

Reclassification would open broadband providers up to common carrier rules under Title II of the Communications Act, similar to regulations that have covered our phone system since 1934. One of the most interesting arguments made by AT&T is that Title II reclassification would force giant changes in the peering and interconnection markets. Reclassification could also bring lots of new requirements for ISPs that don’t directly serve consumers, AT&T argued.

Web host gives FCC a 28.8Kbps slow lane in net neutrality protest

Lots of people are angry about Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler's Internet "fast lane" proposal that would let Internet service providers charge Web services for priority access to consumers.

But one Web hosting service called NeoCities isn't just writing letters to the FCC. Instead, the company found the FCC's internal IP address range and throttled all connections to 28.8Kbps speeds.

"Since the FCC seems to have no problem with this idea, I've (through correspondence) gotten access to the FCC's internal IP block, and throttled all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the Neocities.org front site, and I'm not removing it until the FCC pays us for the bandwidth they've been wasting instead of doing their jobs protecting us from the 'keep America's Internet slow and expensive forever' lobby," NeoCities creator Kyle Drake wrote.

Weak net neutrality won’t scare investors away from Internet startups

[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission's proposal to let Internet service providers charge Web services for a "fast lane" probably isn't a good thing for the Internet -- even the FCC said so itself in 2010 when it warned that such payments would give ISPs "incentives to allow congestion rather than invest in expanding network capacity."

But it's important not to exaggerate the potential effects of the proposed rule.

We have seen headlines such as "The FCC’s new net neutrality proposal is already ruining the Internet" and "Net neutrality ruling scaring VCs away from investing in certain startups."

Right now, there are no network neutrality rules in place in the US. The rules the FCC issued in 2010 were overturned by a federal appeals court, and now the FCC is writing new ones that will probably be weaker than the original plan.

It may well be true that startups will have a tougher time competing against the Netflixes, YouTubes, and Hulus of the world if and when those companies purchase a faster path from ISP data centers to consumers' homes. But it's hard to believe that venture capitalists will suddenly ignore Internet startups in any great numbers.

There's still a huge opportunity for startups to upend the cable TV business model that consumers hate, venture capitalist Joel Yarmon of Draper Associates told Ars. Draper has invested in Twitch.tv, SocialCam, and other online startups.

"You'd better believe I'm looking for companies that are going to disrupt that [TV market] and you better believe that whether I fund them or not, people are going to start companies that disrupt [it] because that is an opportunity," he said.

Yahoo is the latest company ignoring Web users’ requests for privacy

Yahoo announced that it will stop complying with Do Not Track signals that Web browsers send on behalf of users who wish to not be monitored for advertising purposes.

When users click the Do Not Track setting in their browser, an HTTP header is sent to websites to state the user’s preference not to be tracked.

"While some third parties have committed to honor Do Not Track, many more have not,” the project website states. “In February 2012, the major online advertising trade groups pledged at the White House to support Do Not Track by the end of 2014; that promise remains unfulfilled. Efforts to standardize Do Not Track in the World Wide Web Consortium have resulted in deadlock, despite frequent urging by American and European policymakers.”

Yahoo also refused to honor Do Not Track signals from Internet Explorer 10 in late 2012 because Microsoft decided to turn it on by default instead of asking users to make the choice.

Netflix researching “large-scale peer-to-peer technology” for streaming

Netflix is looking for an engineer to research using a peer-to-peer architecture for streaming.

When asked whether the company intends to stream video using P2P, a Netflix spokesperson replied only that "the best way to see it is that we look at all kinds of routes."

Google Fiber finally rolling out Internet service to businesses

Google Fiber began as a service just for residents and public buildings like schools, libraries, and community centers, but it's now being expanded to cover businesses as well.

Google will start a pilot program to connect small businesses in Kansas City before rolling out a more widely available service.

"We are working hard to finalize our service offering for small businesses and would like to invite you to be part of the process," Google says. "We are looking for a few businesses in Kansas City to provide feedback about using Fiber at work.

"Over the next few months, we’ll be connecting a limited number of small businesses to our network in exchange for feedback about the service." Since Google is still figuring out logistics, there's no word yet on when it will be launched to bigger portions of its service area.

Google: Still no plans to bring Fiber to New York

A Google Fiber job posting in New York City has a bunch of tech news sites excited about the prospect of Google bringing its fiber Internet service to the Big Apple.

But Google says there are no such plans.

"We're entirely focused on building out our networks in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo, and on exploring the possibility of bringing Fiber to the 34 locations we announced in February," a Google spokesperson told Ars. Google recently announced that it chose nine metro areas around the country for potential Fiber deployments.

The closest ones to New York City are Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia.

New York City already has fiber in the form of Verizon FiOS, and Google has focused mostly on underserved areas where municipal officials are willing to provide expedited permitting and other perks. There are still millions of Americans without broadband, so there are plenty of areas where Google Fiber is needed.

Verizon led massive astroturf campaign to end NJ broadband obligation

Verizon doesn't want to deploy high-speed wired broadband service to all New Jersey residents, despite receiving financial perks from the state for the past 20 years in exchange for building a statewide network.

To make sure it doesn't have to complete the buildout to all of New Jersey's 8.9 million residents, Verizon led an astroturf campaign that flooded the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) with hundreds of identical e-mails purporting to support Verizon's case. One person who is listed as having written one of these e-mails said that he didn't submit anything, and if he did, "I would've slammed them."

A report in Stop the Cap found several other Verizon "supporters" who had no idea e-mails were submitted under their names. LinkedIn searches show that some of the people sending the aforementioned e-mails are Verizon employees, with titles such as "field tech" or "sourcing process leader." Three hundred twenty-seven people sent e-mails with that text in a six-day span, with 315 of them coming on March 19 and 20.

After Netflix pays Comcast, speeds improve 65%

Netflix's decision to pay Comcast for a direct connection to the Comcast network has resulted in significantly better video streaming performance for customers of the nation's largest broadband provider.

Netflix has bemoaned the payment, asking the government to prevent Comcast from demanding such interconnection "tolls." But there's little doubt the interconnection has benefited consumers in the short term.

Average Netflix performance for Comcast subscribers rose from 1.51Mbps to 1.68Mbps from January to February, though the interconnection didn't begin until late February.

In newly released data, Netflix said average performance on Comcast has now risen further to 2.5Mbps, a 65 percent increase since January. Comcast's increased speed allowed it to pass Time Warner Cable, Verizon, CenturyLink, AT&T U-verse, and others in Netflix's rankings. Comcast remains slower than Cablevision, Cox, Suddenlink, Charter, and Google Fiber.

Comcast PAC gave money to every senator examining Time Warner Cable merger

It's no surprise that Comcast donates money to members of Congress. Political connections come in handy for a company seeking government approval of mergers, like Comcast's 2011 purchase of NBCUniversal and its proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC).

But just how many politicians have accepted money from Comcast's political arm? In the case of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held the first congressional hearing on the Comcast/TWC merger, the answer is all of them. Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY) led the way with $35,000 from the Comcast federal political action committee (PAC) between 2009 and 2014, Sen Patrick Leahy (D-VT) received $32,500, and Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT) received $30,000.

These figures are the combined contributions from Comcast to the senators' campaign and leadership committees. Out of 18 committee members, 10 Democrats and eight Republicans, 17 got money from Comcast's federal PAC, according to the database at OpenSecrets.org.

Anti-Comcast Sen Al Franken (D-MN) isn't listed as having received anything from Comcast's PAC, but that's apparently because the database didn't take into account money collected by Sen Franken's recount fund from when he needed a vote recount to get elected to the Senate. Sen Franken’s popularity with Comcast's overlords has obviously gone downhill since the recount fund donation, though.

The senator argued that the Comcast/TWC merger would stifle competition and lead to higher prices and worse service for consumers. “There’s no doubt that Comcast is a huge, influential corporation, and I understand that there are over 100 lobbyists making the case for this deal to members of Congress and our staffs,” Sen Franken said during the hearing. "But I’ve also heard from over 100,000 consumers who oppose this deal, and I think their voices need to be heard, too.”