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January 18, 2011


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U.S. regulators are asking software developers in an "Open Internet Challenge" to create apps that let Internet users know when their service provider -- fixed or mobile -- is interfering with content.

I located the actual text of the new FCC regulation. If you "google" "FCC’s Open Internet Rules – Stronger than You Think" or "Stanford Center for Internet and Society", contains a link to the FCC text, which downloads as a 1MB PDF file.

Welcome the weird world of weird techno jargon mixed with weird legalese. Like the google search, this document itself contains mostly commentary, all but burying the actual text of the new regulations (it took me an hour to find them in that 194 page mess).


54. A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly
disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices,
performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient
for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services and for content,
application, service,and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet

No Blocking

63. A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as
such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-
harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.

No Unreasonable Discrimination

68. A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as
such person is so engaged, shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful
network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service. Reasonable
network management shall not constitute unreasonable discrimination.211

Reasonable Network Management

82. A network management practice is reasonable if it is appropriate and tailored to
achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular
network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service.

Who could possibly object to these lofty goals? For me, the following facts stand out in all this.

Once again we have the same old divide between the ideologies of the free market and regulatory paranoia. This is obvious from the
mountains of comments about this on the web.

The regulations are full of qualifiers (lawful content, unreasonable discrimination, reasonable practice, etc.) that are fertile ground for preferential interpretation. Once again the big guys with the deep pockets, the most influential lobbyists and the most fancy lawyers will jockey for favorable treatment at the expense of others, especially the small guys who cannot absorb the costs of documentation, expert and legal services to prove compliance.

The FCC is trying to solve a problem that does not exist, or which can be or has already been solved in the free market. It is not clear from the general language of the rules, but clear from the supporting legalese and definitely from the comments, that the FCC is in a power grabbing mood for no other reason but to gain control of the internet.

There is no evidence of any feedback from or attention to the experiences of actual users. None of these rules have any practical effect on my use of the internet either on my computer or my cell phone.

None of these rules address problems I do have:

- random interruption of service,
- holes in the cell phone coverage area,
- occasional
tinkering with the terms of service,
- broken links and bookmarks, as content is removed,
- certain (most) content providers charging "member" fees,
- web pages, that do not have mobile versions, loading painfully slowly on a cell phone,
- search engines, especially google, sorting results not by relevance but by the price that content providers paid google to be at the top of the list,

- cookies and other means that prevent anonymity on the web,
- google and other sites, as well as applications, spying on my browsing history, grabbing my passwords, reading my files and otherwise violating my privacy,
viruses not blocked at the source or at least filtered out by the ISP.

On the other hand, as an end user I do NOT have a problem with anything that the FCC proposes to prevent or correct with these rules.

Transparency becomes an issue only if the carrier tries to revise the terms of service. If I don't like the new terms, I can switch carriers.

I have never had any attempted access blocked by my ISP for any reason. If I am unhappy with the service I get, I can always switch to another carrier, and I will be able to do so as long as the FCC leaves well enough alone so here will be some competition left in the market.
I am not a user of VoIP or video conferencing, so I don't care if the phone company or cable company objects to my choosing a service other than their in-house version.

And I do not consider it unreasonable if my ISP objects to heavy uses such as playing on-line games, video conferencing or watching movies all day. It is their job to provide service and to manage the load on their network so everybody is happy. Hogs make everybody unhappy in any industry or market. And if everybody starts overloading the existing networks, then the simple laws of supply and demand will prod the providers to upgrade their networks with or without prompting by the FCC.

The internet, as originally designed, works by means of packets being sent via any available path through the "cloud," from a source to a destination. The addresses are encoded into each packet. Content of any size is divided onto small packets at the source, and sequential packets are reassembled at the destination for presentation to the end user. This is in contrast with the telephone model of communicating, where a dedicated physical connection is maintained between the caller and the callee for the duration of the call. Therefore the only responsibility of the internet service provider (ISP) is to use equipment capable of handling the traffic of packets being sent, and the ISP has no reason to read a packet for anything other than its destination address. It is only the destination that needs to read and decode the packet's contents.

Within the framework of the technology, therefore, the FCC has no role in regulating the internet.. Problems on the business side, such as consolidation and monopolization, are handled by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Violations of privacy, such as spying on content or blocking access because of content, are in the purview of the Justice Department. The FCC has no authority beyond assigning radio frequency bands for use in wireless services.

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I believe in Obama's plan and advocacy. Haters gonna hate!

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