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FCC Declares Intention To Enforce Net Neutrality 343

Posted by kdawson
from the play-nice-now dept.
Unequivocal writes "The FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, told Congress today that the 'Federal Communications Commission plans to keep the Internet free of increased user fees based on heavy Web traffic and slow downloads. ...Genachowski... told The Hill that his agency will support "net neutrality" and go after anyone who violates its tenets. "One thing I would say so that there is no confusion out there is that this FCC will support net neutrality and will enforce any violation of net neutrality principles," Genachowski said when asked what he could do in his position to keep the Internet fair, free and open to all Americans. The statement by Genachowski comes as the commission remains locked in litigation with Comcast. The cable provider is appealing a court decision by challenging the FCC's authority to penalize the company for limiting Web traffic to its consumers.' It looks like the good guys are winning, unless the appeals court rules against the FCC."
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FCC Declares Intention To Enforce Net Neutrality

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  • Let me say.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamsolidsnk (862065) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:41PM (#29193137)
    I did not see this one coming....
    • Me either, after the FCC being suspiciously absent from any meaningful reformist type discussions during the last 10 years.

      Other than Google Voice and a bandwidth auction, I haven't heard much about the FCC in some years, aside of course from Janet Jackson's nipple.

    • Re:Let me say.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tenareth (17013) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:55PM (#29194079) Homepage

      It's a simple tactic. Get people thinking you are in charge of the Internet by "protecting it". Once people take it as an unwritten rule that you are the police of the Internet, you can do whatever you want.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dan541 (1032000)

      The media companies forgot to pay the FCC.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:44PM (#29193159) Journal

    Assuming they aren't already. You know Rogers and the other providers are going to be watching very closely how this develops.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:49PM (#29193245)

      Canada doesn't give two shits about what the FCC has to say about net neutrality.

      The CRTC has been actively working against the entire idea of net neutrality, and the very few providers that don't have to answer to the CRTC perform lovely things like AD insertion/replacement and falsifying DNS, not to mention throttling competitor's VoIP service (but, of course, not their own).

      Canada has the sort of internet you find in the 3rd world. The only difference being not the price, nor the bandwidth (the price and average available bandwidth is in-line with most 3rd internet world pricing) but rather the caps on the service (most 3rd world countries have somewhat smaller caps).

      Way to go, Canada!

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:47PM (#29193207)

    If "Net Neutrality"= "treat traffic the same regardless of source and destination", then GOOD.

    If "Net Neutrality"= "treat traffic the same regardless of protocol", then BAD.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:02PM (#29193413) Homepage

      If "Net Neutrality"= "treat traffic the same regardless of protocol", then BAD.

      Not in my opinion. I see no reason at all to have policies based on protocol. That's a static decision, and static policy decisions can be inaccurate for any particular connection, out of date or simply ignorant of new protocols, and can/will be largely decided by politics not practicality. I.e. bittorent bad, equally bandwidth heavy streaming protocols from ISP-approved media sites good.

      You can get QoS while remaining protocol agnostic. You simply base the priority for any connection based on the amount of bandwidth it uses. Lower bandwidth, higher priority. Low-bandwidth latency-sensitive apps like VOIP work perfectly without having their protocol recognized, bulk data transfers are deprioritized but still get plenty of bandwidth (because the higher priority connections are by definition not using much) again without the protocol mattering. If you try to game the system by sending bulk data transfers though VOIP protocols, then you still get downgraded, while a static system would fail.

      The only cases it doesn't work for are cases where there's not much you can do anyway -- like live (as in no buffering) streaming video.

      What I don't know is if there is any routers out there that do this, or if it's still considered too much memory to keep the connection state info around for packets that are just passing through.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sique (173459)

        You can still game the system: Open many parallel connections.

      • Shortfalls (Score:5, Informative)

        by kriss (4837) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:40PM (#29193911) Homepage

        I'm sure it's not in your opinion, but you're sadly oversimplifying or ignoring every use case and ignoring the drivers behind QoS in general. If you want something simplistic and turnkey, there's certainly products out there. Netequalizer springs to mind.

        But hey, let's throw in a few simple examples:

        HTTP downloads vs. Flash video streamed over HTTP. One is decidedly interactive (even if buffering certainly helps), the other one is decidedly non-interactive (even if faster = neater, naturally).

        SIP telephony vs. SIP videoconferencing. Agnosticism per your definition would make the algorithm punish the SIP videocon.

        Or, let's take an even simpler example: P2P. Rather than a few very hungry connections, you get a large number of connections pushing less data per connection.

        One can always argue that service providers should provide enougb bandwidth so that they won't even have to prioritize data the first place. Nice in theory, hard (or simply uneconomic) in practice. Take a cable provider - with a limited upstream bandwidth per channel, you need some sort of fairness. Simple per-plug fairness works to some extent, but you don't really want to punish the puny amount of upstream data your average HTTP request would generate just because the same user is P2P'ing like there's no tomorrow. Makes for a bad user experience.

        When we get to wireless, it gets even messier with the limited and shared upstream and downstream.

        I could go on for a whie, but I believe the point has been made. It's not a case of "You simply XYZ" at all.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:03PM (#29193423)

      If "Net Neutrality"= "treat traffic the same regardless of source and destination", then GOOD.

      If "Net Neutrality"= "treat traffic the same regardless of protocol", then BAD.

      The FCC's Network Neutrality Principles [fcc.gov] are:

      1. Consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice;
      2. Consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement;
      3. Consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network;
      4. Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

      Neither of the principles you state are, as such, strictly necessary to meet those principles.

      That being said, discrimination by source or destination could in some cases violated the principles (e.g., if an ISP that is also a content provider outright blocks access to traffic trying to reach competing content providers over its network, or blocks all port 80 requests, or all requessts that appear to use the HTTP protocol, going to their non-business subscribers IPs.) Likewise, discrimination by protocol might in some cases violate the protocol (indeed, the last example of discrimination by source or destination is also a discrimination by protocol.) Whether deprioritizing rather than outright blocking traffic using certain ports or protocols would violate the principles depends on the circumstances; presumably, deprioritization that made it impractical to use the protocol for its principal purpose would be problematic.

      • Neither of the principles you state are, as such, strictly necessary to meet those principles.

        Yeah, it doesn't seem like the FCC means the same thing the average geek does by "net neutrality". The summary's quote talks about keeping the internet free of additional fees for heavy usage. Er, well, that's nice to have, but the right to hog your ISP's pipes to the detriment of other uses with impunity is not really what net neutrality is all about.

        If networks want to prioritize users that don't download as much when they are at full capacity, fine. If they want to let traffic pick between low latency

    • by pecosdave (536896) * on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:16PM (#29193601) Homepage Journal

      The problem is, ISP's are already doing it based on protocol, and it's bad. If your internet service is provided by a cable company, they just may slow down video protocols as perceived competition on their own bandwidth, but allow voice ones through to take a stab at phone companies.

      On the other hand, if you have a DSL through a phone provider, they just may slow down voice/audio protocols for the same reasons, but allow video ones through to take a stab at cable companies.

      There was a LOT of competitions, back biting, and attempts at legislation between both of these types of companies a few years back, I remember TONS of commercials with each side trying to get the people on board. Both sides pretty much supported the concept of government intervention to keep the other out of their business while allowing their side to get into the others. I'm generally against most government intervention.

      In most cases, a competitor will spring up when one type of industry is screwing the people at large that doesn't screw the people at large, at least at first. Unfortunately in communications industries those competitors are few and far between.

      I would LOVE to start my own cable company that simply pushed analog and QAM TV without the need for converter boxes and was utterly lacking in all but absolutely require encryption. I think the public would love to use their own TV tuners again and be able to build their MythTV boxes/use their Tivos without having to clear it with some mystical gate keeper.

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      If "Net Neutrality"= "treat traffic the same regardless of protocol", then BAD.

      Can you explain how to tell what protocol is being carried over a TLS connection?

    • If "Net Neutrality"= "treat traffic the same regardless of source and destination", then GOOD.

      If "Net Neutrality"= "treat traffic the same regardless of protocol", then BAD.

      Agree, with some caveats such as with vocal and emergency communications.

      Falcon

  • enforce any violation of net neutrality principles

    I'd be happier if they vowed to enforce the principles, rather than their violation.

    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      "One thing I would say so that there is no confusion out there is that this FCC will support net neutrality and will enforce any violation of net neutrality principles," Genachowski said....

      I'd be happier if they vowed to enforce the principles, rather than their violation.

      So much for ensuring that there is no confusion!

    • principles vs. law (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DesScorp (410532)

      enforce any violation of net neutrality principles

      I'd be happier if they vowed to enforce the principles, rather than their violation.

      What I'd like to know is on what grounds do they think they can mandate how traffic is managed on ISP networks. There are no net neutrality laws. "Principle" means jack squat legally. I don't think there are even any internal FCC regulations on the books regarding NN, let alone laws passed by Congress. This leaves a huge hole for ISP's to take the FCC to court for what is essentially a privately delivered service.

      • by CyprusBlue113 (1294000) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:24PM (#29193695)
        Titles 3 & 4 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

        Specificially the preemption of franchising authority regulation of telecommunication services, and the elimination of most of the greedy/protective (depending on your political views) PSC boards.

        The alternative is something they don't want, which is why they are trying to find some illiterate judge to declare the FCC impotent.
      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:29PM (#29193763)

        What I'd like to know is on what grounds do they think they can mandate how traffic is managed on ISP networks.

        Presumably because Congress, by law, has given the FCC authority to regulate interstate and foreign communication to acheive policy aims set by Congress, including, for instance, direction "to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet" and "to promote the continued development of the Internet" and to "encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans", and also because of the US Supreme Court ruling in Brand X, 545 U.S. 967 (2005) that "the Commission remains free to impose special regulatory duties on facilities-based ISPs under its Title I ancillary jurisdiction."

        (Additional authority is cited in the FCC's Memorandum Opinion and Order [fcc.gov] in the Comcast case.)

        There are no net neutrality laws.

        No, there are net neutrality principles that the FCC has articulated that it believes are appropriate and necessary to acheive the mandates the FCC has been given by Congress with regard to the internet, and which it intends to use to guide its policymaking in that area.

        "Principle" means jack squat legally.

        True, principles, as such, have no binding force. The FCC Net Neutrality principles [fcc.gov], one should note, are essentially a statement of how the Commission intends to acheive the objectives set for it in law, using its existing statutory authority; they aren't asserted to be independent legal authority.

        This leaves a huge hole for ISP's to take the FCC to court for what is essentially a privately delivered service.

        Anyone can take the FCC to court for anything they want; whether they can win or not is another matter.

  • Uh huh. (Score:3, Funny)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:49PM (#29193233) Homepage

    What you don't realize is that by "neutrality" they mean politically; all Republican websites will be required to forward half the incoming traffic to liberal pages.

    They'll swap that when (if) the Republicans come back to power.

    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      Funny or not, that's the basic idea behind the fairness doctrine [wikipedia.org] for radio which the dems are trying to resurrect [wikipedia.org]. It's not inconceivable this could somehow be applied to the internet but I can't imagine it going through without a lot of backlash.
    • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

      What you don't realize is that by "neutrality" they mean politically; all Republican websites will be required to forward half the incoming traffic to liberal pages.

      You're smoking something if you think there are currently the same number of Republicans as Democrats in the U.S. :)

      The really sad part is, there are a lot of conservative Democrats, which is the big reason Obama is having trouble getting things passed - the Democratic pols aren't one homogeneous group in the same way the smaller Republican part

  • by FiveDozenWhales (1360717) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:51PM (#29193275)
    The FCC, working for the rights of the consumer and not the rights of the big corporations?

    Is it April 1st?
    • Big corporations like Google benefit from network neutrality; that's why they are lobbying heavily about it. In fact, virtually all of the think tanks and pundits are funded by big business; the neutralists are funded by content providers and the anti-neutralists are funded by ISPs.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      ummmm they ahve always doen that.
      Believe me, the media companies do not like the limitation on language.

      Sadly, a few hicks in BFE write a letter and we all get to suffer.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:54PM (#29193313) Journal

    Every so often, a foundational concept comes along that could affect development for decades or centuries hence. The concept of "network neutrality" is one of these.

    Just imagine the future possibilities:

    On one hand, you have a future where you can never be sure what's really "out there", where there are huge swaths of information that you simply can't access, not because you or the information owner have any disagreement, but because some third party that you don't even know has determined that you shouldn't or couldn't see it. In this world, many sites are slowed to the point of unusability simply because your carrier doesn't want to have to compete with them when they offer a similar service. Quality suffers due to the lack of open competition.

    On the other extreme, we have a future in which the Internet consists of the "world of ends [worldofends.com]" so charmingly envisioned by Doc Searls and David Weinberger. In this world, every information provider competes on fairly level turf with everybody else. Services that are genuinely better are allowed to win out solely on their merits, and not on their competitive associations. Quality of service continues to progress at a lightning pace, friction for improvements is low, so the best man truly does win.

    Some people would say this is esoteric, that it's not about the "real world". But these people miss the fact that in the world of the future, the Internet will be the primary means of communication around the world. Already we see whole industries being consumed and integrated into the Internet. I no longer have cable, no television antenna sits on my roof, since Hulu + Netflix does everything I ever asked of my satellite dish and then some. I no longer have a phone line, since Vonage lets me do what I wish, anywhere I like for less. I basically don't send letters anymore, Email does the job faster, better, and cheaper. It's easier for me to do my banking electronically than it is to drive downtown to the nearest bank branch.

    The world of the future is the Internet. And it's up to us, our generation, to see that this gorgeous technology is established with social norms and laws that allow us to use it to its maximum potential. This is our time. SAY YES TO NETWORK NEUTRALITY, AS LOUDLY AND OFTEN AS YOU CAN.

    • by Eil (82413) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @07:02PM (#29194189) Homepage Journal

      On one hand, you have a future where you can never be sure what's really "out there", where there are huge swaths of information that you simply can't access, not because you or the information owner have any disagreement, but because some third party that you don't even know has determined that you shouldn't or couldn't see it.

      I've always maintained that the opposite of net neutrality is censorship. Simply put, net neutrality and the establishment of ISPs as carriers of information rather than producers, filters, or surveyors will be every single bit as important to freedom in western civilization as free speech.

      And before someone goes Mr. Pedantic on me, note that "censorship" is literally defined as the act or ability to censor. Other entities besides the government can censor information and ISPs would be the perfect example.

  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:04PM (#29193435) Homepage Journal

    Most of the types who have traffic shaping explained to them - which is what usually happens when politicians are the ones pushing the cause - still don't understand the concept of port blocking.

    When I pay for "Internet Access" I don't expect my service provider to be able to dictate what I can and can't do with my internet connection. This includes hosting my own mail, FTP, and HTTP servers! What business of it is theirs if I post an image on Fark and host it myself?

    As long as you're not spamming and/or doing illegal things they need to back the hell off.

    As far as I'm concerned, if I'm having select ports blocked I am NOT getting "Internet Access".

    • by Joe Jay Bee (1151309) <jbsouthsea&gmail,com> on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:14PM (#29193577)

      I would generally agree, but would point out two things:

      1) if you intend to run servers etc, a business package may well be more for you, since the ISP probably won't restrict that so much - you get what you pay for, and if you pay for a generic consumer package that's what you'll get
      2) It helps to block mail server ports for most people to stop people unwittingly becoming part of a spam botnet. The benefits of the blocking more than outweigh the downsides of a few geeks being inconvenienced.

      • by pecosdave (536896) * on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:26PM (#29193731) Homepage Journal

        1) The providers are rather stupid about what they allow/wont allow. For instance with most providers that do the "Triple Play" if you get a business package you're no longer even allowed to get television. AT&T is known for this. The only reason I could get a 20 up/down with Verizon when I got it was because TV wasn't available in my area. If it would have been I wouldn't have been allowed to get that bandwidth. (Never mind the fact they lowered my bandwidth after a few months, never notified me and still charged me for 20)

        2) When I had Time Warner years ago, they did NOT block my ports. What they did do was occasionally attempt to send mail through my SMTP server, they failed. (yes, I read my logs) I'm pretty sure if they would have succeeded I would have heard from them, since they never did, I never heard from them.

        How hard is it to have script look for problems on a subnet? Time Warner did it. I personally believe they should cut off problem customers, and notify them as to why they are being cut off if they're problematic. Back when people would attack my servers with bots (usually infected Windows machines) I usually notified the ISPs, they usually didn't give a rats ass. ISP's are usually talking out their ass when they give justifications, I've proved it more than once.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          oddle, 20/20 with TV and Phone is available in my area from Verizon.

          Also, they lowered my monthly bill mid contract.
          For the curios, yes they did send an opt out if I wanted to continue my previus higher payments, and no it didn't come with anew EULA.

          • by pecosdave (536896) *

            It's rare and awesome thing thing when that happens.

            Way back when I had AT&T dialup they lowered their prices across the board, unless you already had their service. I sited the fact they didn't lower my bill when I canceled service, but I really left because I had free service with the ISP I starting to work for. I told them this, they tried to get me to stay anyway, with lowering my bill to the new rate and a couple of free months. I had to explain to them they just couldn't beat outright free.

      • by pecosdave (536896) *

        Another note -

        Instead of some arbitrary "business" classification I would actually support bandwidth/traffic tiers.

        I could see my grandmother getting a low speed low transfer cheap tier and doing fine. She doesn't do much more than email and goofy internet slot machine game.

        I could see most average users getting a high bandwidth low/medium transfer tier and doing fine for browsing, email, and maybe a couple of digital movie downloads or some Hulu time.

        Someone like me could probably get along with the previ

      • by kindbud (90044) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @07:02PM (#29194187) Homepage

        1) if you intend to run servers etc, a business package may well be more for you, since the ISP probably won't restrict that so much - you get what you pay for, and if you pay for a generic consumer package that's what you'll get.

        That's fine. Just don't refer to the "generic consumer package" with blocked ports and redirects as unlimited Internet access. If I am connected to the Internet, I expect to be able to connect and be connected to as I wish, because that's what the Internet is. Call it the Comcast Walled Garden Online Package instead, because that's what it is.

    • by JustNiz (692889)

      I completely agree.

      I wonder how successful a net neutraility lawsuit would be on the basis that having one or more specific ports completely blocked is effectively just the absolutely maximum possible bandwidth shaping of a particular kind of traffic.

      Or alternatively, a lawsuit for for false advertising, given all the cable companies generally do just sell their service as internet access, with no mention of limitations.

  • ...but aren't we talking about private property owned by private private companies?

    I don't want my traffic shaped one way or another, BUT allowing the government this kind of power is a dangerous road. If the government wanted the internet to be free of these kind of controls, doesn't it make sense for them to OWN the infrastructure so they can make the rules? As apposed to forcing the rules down the throat of a company?

    I value lower government interference over funky tubes any day.

    • ...but aren't we talking about private property owned by private private companies?

      Most ISPs wouldn't be able to deliver service at all if it wasn't for public appropriation of property rights, via eminent domain, to put in their connecting infrastructure (often, established to support their operation as common-carrier telephone companies, which were often regulated monopolies), and many of them are protected from having much competition by the fact that governments aren't going to keep doing that to suppor

    • by geekoid (135745)

      We are also talking about interstate issues; which are regulated by the government.

      The government and the court are the only real things the protect use from corporate abuse. Do you think only one company would do this?

  • simple (Score:3, Informative)

    by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon@gamerslas ... .com minus berry> on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:33PM (#29193813) Homepage Journal

    The stimulus bill that was passed requires any firm getting stimulus money for infrastructure upgrades, to follow the FCC's net neutrality tenets.

  • by keithpreston (865880) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:34PM (#29193831)
    I just can't understand how ISPs make this a difficult problem. Obviously there are some users that use a lot of bandwidth, there are others that don't. They have tried to discriminate based on "type" of traffic for a while, but why not just on the users total traffic for the month? It is super simple, keep track of the volume of data for all customers. From this data generate a QoS ordering for every customer (quantized based on QoS technical limits) daily or every so often. Now people that don't use bandwidth get served first and others get their packets dropped when bandwidth is at capacity(which I imagine isn't 100% of the time). Essentially high bandwidth users get all the extra bandwidth left over after the low bandwidth people get as much as they want. Then there is none of this packet filters, port blocking, man in the middle TCP reset junk that they are doing now. If you really want you can guarantee a minimum bandwidth for each customer and make reservations for that in the system.
    • It's difficult because I paid for my internet connection. Who the hell are they to tell me the people that use the service they paid for less often is the more important customer? Last I checked the people that used your service the most were your best customers. If I use the service the most I should get priority, not the people that use it the least. Either way we both paid the same amount and should get equal treatment. "Traffic shaping" (more accurately called packet forgery or fraud) is an insult to bo

  • The FCC stated that they will go after violations.
    This is not the same as them actually doing it!

    Let's first wait and see how this agency, that is stuffed with people from companies that are net-neutrality opponents, actually will perform.
    I personally don't believe a word of what a government agency says. Because I learned a bit about rhetorics. And one thing is clear: The reason they are saying it, is never ever to inform anyone about their intentions, but always about reaching a specific effect in the tar

    • The FCC stated that they will go after violations.
      This is not the same as them actually doing it!

      Let's first wait and see how this agency, that is stuffed with people from companies that are net-neutrality opponents, actually will perform.

      They've actually already been acting against violations of the principles; two notable cases being the Madison River Communications case centering on VoIP blocking, and the Comcast case centering on BitTorrent blocking.

      I personally don't believe a word of what a government

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