ARL, EDUCAUSE, and Others Submit Net Neutrality Comments to FCC

The Association of Research Libraries, EDUCAUSE, Internet2, NYSERNet, and ACUTA have submitted comments to the FCC on preserving open internet broadband industry practices.

Here's an excerpt:

In sum, the availability of low-cost, high-speed, nondiscriminatory Internet services is absolutely essential for colleges, universities, research institutions, and research libraries to achieve their missions in the 21st Century. The adoption of enforceable net neutrality principles will ensure equal access for non-profit voices, encourage competition in the online content and services markets, and preserve the cultural benefits that flow from the Internet’s open, democratic nature. By keeping broadband providers from discriminating against educational content and research, by barring broadband providers from raising artificial price barriers to competition, and by preserving open discourse and debate, net neutrality will preserve the principles that have made the Internet successful and transformative. We urge the Commission to adopt the six principles proposed in the NPRM [Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking] and to adopt meaningful enforcement procedures to ensure that they are implemented.

Bills Introduced in House and Senate to Block FCC Net Neutrality Regulations

Senator John McCain has introduced the "The Internet Freedom Act of 2009" in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Marsha Blackburn has introduced the "Real Stimulus Act of 2009" in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both bills are aimed at preventing the FCC from imposing net neutrality regulations, saying: "The Federal Communications Commission shall not propose, promulgate, or issue any regulations regarding the Internet or IP-enabled services."

Read more about it at "House Bill Would Ban FCC Net Neutrality Rules" and "House, Senate Get Separate Bills to Kill Net Neutrality."

"Preserving a Free and Open Internet: A Platform for Innovation, Opportunity, and Prosperity"

The FCC has released the text and a digital video of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's "Preserving a Free and Open Internet: A Platform for Innovation, Opportunity, and Prosperity" speech at the Brookings Institution.

Here's an excerpt:

The rise of serious challenges to the free and open Internet puts us at a crossroads. We could see the Internet’s doors shut to entrepreneurs, the spirit of innovation stifled, a full and free flow of information compromised. Or we could take steps to preserve Internet openness, helping ensure a future of opportunity, innovation, and a vibrant marketplace of ideas.

I understand the Internet is a dynamic network and that technology continues to grow and evolve. I recognize that if we were to create unduly detailed rules that attempted to address every possible assault on openness, such rules would become outdated quickly. But the fact that the Internet is evolving rapidly does not mean we can, or should, abandon the underlying values fostered by an open network, or the important goal of setting rules of the road to protect the free and open Internet.

Saying nothing—and doing nothing—would impose its own form of unacceptable cost. It would deprive innovators and investors of confidence that the free and open Internet we depend upon today will still be here tomorrow. It would deny the benefits of predictable rules of the road to all players in the Internet ecosystem. And it would be a dangerous retreat from the core principle of openness—the freedom to innovate without permission—that has been a hallmark of the Internet since its inception, and has made it so stunningly successful as a platform for innovation, opportunity, and prosperity.

In view of these challenges and opportunities, and because it is vital that the Internet continue to be an engine of innovation, economic growth, competition and democratic engagement, I believe the FCC must be a smart cop on the beat preserving a free and open Internet.

The FCC also launched a new website: Open Internet.Gov.

Analysis of The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009

In "Close Reading: The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009," Public Knowledge Policy Analyst Mehan Jayasuriya analyzes the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009.

Here's an excerpt:

All in all, the Internet Freedom Protection Act of 2009 seems like a great first step toward the goal of enshrining net neutrality in U.S. law. It finally extends Carterfone rules to broadband providers, addresses the long-standing questions surrounding reasonable network management and ensures a number of much-needed protections for consumers. What remains to be seen is how the language of the bill will change as it works its way through Congress, how the FCC will choose to implement and enforce the provisions of the bill and whether or not the bill will be taken up by Congress at all. Only one thing is certain: those few, powerful opponents of net neutrality are not going to let this bill through without a fight.

Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009

Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) have introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

"The Internet is a success today because it was open to everyone with an idea," said Rep. Markey. "That openness and freedom has been at risk since the Supreme Court decision in Brand X. This bill will protect consumers and content providers because it will restore the guarantee that one does not have to ask permission to innovate."

"The Internet has thrived and revolutionized business and the economy precisely because it started as an open technology," Rep. Eshoo said. "This bill will ensure that the non-discriminatory framework that allows the Internet to thrive and competition on the Web to flourish is preserved at a time when our economy needs it the most."

H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, is designed to assess and promote Internet freedom for consumers and content providers. The bill will also require the FCC to examine whether carriers are blocking access to lawful content, applications, or services. The legislation calls for the FCC to conduct eight public broadband summits around the country no less than a year after the bill is enacted. These summits will be used to gather input from consumers, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders on Internet freedom and U.S. broadband policies affecting consumer protection, competition, and consumer choice.

Here's an excerpt from the "Public Knowledge Hails Internet Freedom Preservation Act":

[Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge] "The requirements in the bill are very straightforward. In essence, the bill would return non-discrimination to communications law, preventing Internet service providers (ISPs), such as telephone and cable companies, from interfering in that end-to-end relationship. The requirements would curb the ability of ISPs from using the claim of network management to impose their own priorities on data traffic, based on financial arrangements or other considerations."

Bill Would Prohibit Internet Use Caps: Congressman Eric Massa to Introduce “Broadband Internet Fairness Act”

Congressman Eric Massa (D-NY) has announced that he will introduce the "Broadband Internet Fairness Act," which would prohibit Internet use caps.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

The Massa Broadband Internet Fairness Act would prohibit unfair tiered price structures from internet providers. The bill will also address the importance of helping broadband providers create jobs and increase their bandwidth while increasing competition in areas currently served by only one provider.

"I am taking a leadership position on this issue because of all the phone calls, emails and faxes I've received from my district and all over the country," said Congressman Eric Massa. "Time Warner has announced an ill-conceived plan to charge residential and business broadband fees based on the amount of data they download. They have yet to explain how increased internet usage increases their costs." . . .

In the past week, there has been a significant uproar in the Rochester, NY area regarding Time Warner's announcement that they will "test market" a plan to charge customers based on how much they download. The initial proposal was to introduce a 5, 10, 20, or 40 gb/month downloading cap. If customers went over the cap, they would start mounting additional fees.

Then today Time Warner announced a new tiered plan similar to the previous one. However, for a consumer to receive the same unlimited internet that they currently do for around $40 per month, they would be billed $150 per month under the new plan.

Read more about it at "Congressman: There Should Be a Law against Internet Caps!" and "Time Warner Faces Backlash on Broadband Caps."

Net Neutrality: The Federal Communications Commission's Authority to Enforce its Network Management Principles

The Congressional Research Service has released Net Neutrality: The Federal Communications Commission's Authority to Enforce its Network Management Principles. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Here's an excerpt:

In 2007, through various experiments by the media, most notably the Associated Press, it became clear that Comcast was intermittently blocking the use of an application called BitTorrent and, possibly, other peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs on its network. Comcast eventually admitted to the practice and agreed to cease blocking the use of the P2P applications on its network. However, Comcast maintains that its actions were reasonable network management and not in violation of the Federal Communications Commission's ("FCC" or "Commission") policy.

In response to a petition from Free Press for a declaratory ruling that Comcast's blocking of P2P applications was not "reasonable network management," the FCC conducted an investigation into Comcast's network management practices. The FCC determined that Comcast had violated the agency's Internet Policy Statement when it blocked certain applications on its network and that the practice at issue in this case was not "reasonable network management." The FCC declined to fine Comcast, because its Internet Policy Statement had never previously been the basis for enforcement forfeitures.

Comcast has appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, as have other public interest groups. Comcast argues that the FCC does not have the authority to enforce its Network Management Principles and the Commission's order was invalid for that reason. The Commission argues that it has ancillary authority under Title I of the Communications Act to implement the broad statutory goals for an open, user-controlled Internet laid out by Congress. If the court finds that the FCC does not have the authority to adjudicate based on its Internet Policy Statement, Congress may face the question whether to act to give the FCC such authority in order to prevent anticompetitive conduct by broadband access providers. If the court finds that the FCC acted properly, the agency may continue to enforce these broad principles on a case-by-case basis.

ALA Action Alert: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

ALA has issued an action alert regarding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. You can use the alert's form to contact your Congressional representatives.

Here's an excerpt:

The next 36 to 48 hours is critical to get millions, maybe billions, of dollars for libraries in the stimulus package. We need every single library supporter to start sending messages and calling congressional offices so that we can keep important library provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As you all know, libraries are a key source of free Internet access to look for jobs and so much more. Our libraries provide essential services that stimulate our local economies, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides crucial funding for libraries to continue and build upon them. This week, the Senate and House versions of the economic stimulus package will go to conference to reconcile these pieces of legislation, and your calls and e-mails will help protect this funding. There are pros and cons of each version of the stimulus, and we need to protect the parts that benefit our communities.

In the coming days, you will receive a lot of e-mails from us, and your advocacy will be the key to our success. Last week, Senate Amendment 501 could have stripped broadband funding from their version of the bill but your calls and e-mails to your elected officials defeated this amendment and successfully protected this funding. Now, more than ever, your activism is needed. Over 1,250 calls went to our elected officials, and now we need even more.

Please call your elected officials and tell them to communicate with the conferees in support of the following parts in both the House and the Senate versions:

  • Restore education construction funds eliminated from the Senate version of the ARRA. The House version of the ARRA would provide $14 billion for K-12 construction and $6 billion for higher education construction and specifically mention libraries as an allowable use of funds. The K-12 construction funds would create 300,000 jobs.
  • Restore the money cut from the State Stabilization Fund in the Senate bill to $79 billion to and restore the Governors ability to use a portion of the funds at his or her discretion.
  • Maintain $8 billion for ‘Broadband Technology Opportunities Program’ for robust broadband to all of America including “fiber to the libraries for the 21st century.”
  • No less than $200 million that shall be available for competitive grants for expanding public computer center capacity, including community colleges and public libraries.
  • Open access of networks should be upheld and not include provisions allowing intrusive network management techniques.

If your elected officials are one of the following, it is even more critical that you contact them, as they are conferees on this legislation and control what stays in and what will be taken out.

Please contact the following and use the same talking points:

Appropriations Chairman Obey (D-WI)
Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY)
Commerce Chairman Waxman (D-CA)
Appropriations Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA)
Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI)
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)
Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT)
Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Finance Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Appropriations Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Two Strikes and You're Out: Comcast Will Suspend Internet Service If Residential Customers Exceed New Monthly Data Limit Twice

On October 1, 2008, Comcast will implement a new 250 GB monthly Internet use limit for residential customers, and it will suspend Internet service for one year if customers exceed it twice.

Read more about it at: "Comcast Caps Highlight Lack of Broadband Competition," "Comcast to Cap Internet Usage for Customers," and "Comcast to Cap Monthly Consumer Broadband Starting Oct. 1."

FCC Issues Memorandum Opinion and Order about Comcast P2P Blocking

The FCC has issued its Memorandum Opinion and Order about Comcast's inteference with P2P traffic.

Here's the "Introduction":

We consider whether Comcast, a provider of broadband Internet access over cable lines, may selectively target and interfere with connections of peer-to-peer (P2P) applications under the facts of this case. Although Comcast asserts that its conduct is necessary to ease network congestion, we conclude that the company's discriminatory and arbitrary practice unduly squelches the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet and does not constitute reasonable network management. Moreover, Comcast's failure to disclose the company's practice to its customers has compounded the harm. Accordingly, we institute a plan that will bring Comcast's unreasonable conduct to an end. In particular, we require Comcast within 30 days to disclose the details of their unreasonable network management practices, submit a compliance plan describing how it intends to stop these unreasonable management practices by the end of the year, and disclose to both the Commission and the public the details of the network management practices that it intends to deploy following termination of its current practices.

In the "Discussion" section, the FCC notes that ISPs may "may block transmissions of illegal content":

50. Comcast and several other commenters maintain a continual refrain that "all network providers must manage bandwidth in some manner" and that providers need "flexibility to engage in the reasonable network management practices." We do not disagree, which is precisely why we do not adopt here an inflexible framework micromanaging providers' network management practices. We also note that because "consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice," providers, consistent with federal policy, may block transmissions of illegal content (e.g., child pornography) or transmissions that violate copyright law. To the extent, however, that providers choose to utilize practices that are not application or content neutral, the risk to the open nature of the Internet is particularly acute and the danger of network management practices being used to further anticompetitive ends is strong. As a result, it is incumbent on the Commission to be vigilant and subject such practices to a searching inquiry, and here Comcast's practice falls well short of being carefully tailored to further the interest offered by the company.

Read more about it at: "Analysis: FCC Comcast Order Is Open Invitation to Internet Filtering"; "FCC Finalizes Comcast's Filtering Penalties"; "FCC Order Scolds Comcast for Changing Story on P2P Blocking"; and "Public Knowledge Praises FCC's Order Protecting Internet, Condemning Comcast Discrimination."

Free Wireless U.S. Broadband, Censorship Included

Since it was announced, the FCC's proposal for a free national wireless broadband service has been controversial.

Free speech advocates don't like this provision of the proposal:

That filters or blocks images and text that constitute obscenity or pornography and, in context, as measured by contemporary community standards and existing law, any images or text that otherwise would be harmful to teens and adolescents. For purposes of this rule, teens and adolescents are children 5 through 17 years of age;

CTIA-The Wireless Association and individual wireless companies have voiced opposition to the plan as well, citing business and technical concerns.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has introduced the Wireless Internet Nationwide for Families Act of 2008 (H.R. 5846) in the House, which is similar to the FCC proposal.

Read more about it at: "22 Public Interest Groups Roast FCC Smutless Broadband Plan"; "Congressional Dems Back Porn-Free Wireless Broadband Network"; "FCC Moves Ahead with Plan for Smut-Free Wireless Broadband"; "FCC Wants Free Broadband Service, Plus Content Filtering"; "FCC's Planned Free WiFi Is for Five Year Olds"; "GOP Pols Oppose Smut-Free Wireless Network Proposal"; and "Martin Defends Smut-Free, Wireless Network to Wary Congress."

Free Press Releases Blocking or Metering: A False Choice

Free Press has released Blocking or Metering: A False Choice.

Here's an excerpt:

The bottom line is this: Making consumers choose between having applications blocked and limitation pricing is what economists call a Morton’s Fork. Neither path is desirable because they both have the same outcome: reducing the innovative power of the Internet. Such an outcome would do great damage to the major driving force behind much of the social and economic change that has occurred over the past 20 years—not to mention all the benefits the Internet promises for the foreseeable future.

Switzerland: Test Your ISP's Net Neutrality

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released Switzerland, an open source software tool for testing your ISP's net neutrality.

Here's an excerpt from the announcement:

Part of EFF's "Test your ISP" project, Switzerland is an open source, command-line software tool designed to detect the modification or injection of packets of data by ISPs. Switzerland detects changes made by software tools believed to be in use by ISPs such as Sandvine and AudibleMagic, advertising systems like FairEagle, and various censorship systems. Although currently intended for use by technically sophisticated Internet users, development plans aim to make the tool increasingly easy to use.

FCC Chairman Wants FCC to Stop Comcast's P2P Throttling

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin will try to get the FCC to approve an order to Comcast to stop throttling P2P downloads and to provide details about its current and planned network management practices.

Read more about it at: "Comcast Loses: FCC Head Slams Company's P2P Filtering," "Comcast Ordered to Stop BitTorrent Traffic Interference," "FCC: Comcast Broke Rules, But Will Not Face Fines," and "Internet Users Stop Comcast, Net Neutrality Win on the Horizon."

Usenet Newsgroups Will Be Blocked By Major ISPs

Spurred on by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to fight child pornography, Sprint, Time Warner Cable. and Verizon will block significant numbers of Usenet news groups.

Regarding the Verizon ban, Declan McCullagh points out that only 8 of 1,000 Usenet hierarchies are being kept, and "That means not carrying perfectly innocuous—and, in fact, very useful—newsgroups like symantec.customerservice.general, us.military, microsoft.public.excel, and fr.soc.economie."

Read more about it at: "alt.blocked: Verizon Blocks Access to Whole USENET Hierarchy" "ISPs: We're Limiting Our Own Usenet Groups, Not Blocking Others" "N.Y. Attorney General Forces ISPs to curb Usenet Access" "Verizon Offers Details of Usenet Deletion: alt.* groups, Others Gone"

Vuze Issues Report on ISP Throttling

Vuze has issued a report (First Results from Vuze Network Monitoring Tool) analyzing the network management tactics of ISPs.

Here's an excerpt from the report:

We believe that there is sufficient data to suggest that network management practices that "throttle" internet traffic are widespread. At a minimum, more investigation is required to determine whether these resets are happening in the ordinary course of business or whether they represent the kind of throttling practices which target specific applications and/or protocols, harming the consumer experience and stifling innovation.

Read more about it at "Study: All Major Broadband Providers Disrupt P2P," "U.S. Senate Committee Tackles Net Neutrality Today," and "Vuze Says Some ISPs Abuse TCP Resets; Data Not That Clearcut."

Comcast and Pando Networks Want to Create P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

Comcast and Pando Networks have announced that they want to create a P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. The announcement was greeted with skepticism by some net neutrality advocates.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Comcast Corporation and Pando Networks, Inc. announced today they will lead an industry-wide effort to create a "P2P Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" (BRR) for peer-to-peer (P2P) users and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The two companies plan to collaborate and engage with industry experts, other ISPs and P2P companies, content providers and others to set a framework for the BRR that can serve as a best practice. The purpose would be to clarify what choices and controls consumers should have when using P2P applications as well as what processes and practices ISPs should use to manage P2P applications running on their networks. For example, P2P users should have the right to control their computers’ resources when using P2P applications.

In addition, Comcast and Pando plan to conduct a test of Pando Network Aware™ P2P technology on Comcast’s fiber-optic network. The purpose of the test will be to capture and analyze the data flow associated with downloading a file using Pando’s P2P application. These tests, along with tests Pando will conduct on a variety of other ISP networks, including cable, DSL, fiber and wireless, will measure things like performance, speed, distance and geography as well as the bandwidth consumption impact to the ISP. Comcast, Pando and the P4P Working Group plan to publish the results of these tests so other ISPs can benefit from understanding how P2P applications might be optimized for traveling over different types of networks in different environments and geographies.

Today’s announcement builds on Comcast’s March 27th announcement to collaborate with BitTorrent and the broader Internet and ISP community to more effectively address issues associated with rich media content and network capacity management. It also builds on Pando’s recent announcements of its P4P test results which demonstrated Pando’s ability to reduce network congestion and speed content delivery by routing P2P traffic more effectively across cable, DSL, and fiber broadband networks.

The Pando test will provide additional data to help Comcast migrate to a protocol-agnostic network management technique by the end of this year. The arrangement is yet another example of how these technical issues can be worked out through private business discussions and without the need for government intervention.

Read more about it at "But Why Do We Need a P2P Bill Of Rights in the First Place?"; "Comcast Calls for 'P2P Bill of Rights'"; "Comcast Loves File Sharing, Honest!"; "Comcast to Spearhead Creation of P2P Bill of Rights"; "Comcast Wants to Be the Net's Judge, Jury, and Executioner"; and "Public Knowledge Calls Comcast-Pando Proposal 'Ludicrous'."

When Torrent Becomes a Trickle: Bell Canada Implements Traffic Shaping Policy for ISPs

Canadian ISPs that rely on Bell Canada for data lines faced a new challenge starting on March 14th when Bell Canada began to implement a traffic shaping policy aimed at limiting P2P bandwidth utilization on their lines. The ISP's are up in arms about this policy, but Bell Canada says that:"Our agreements with wholesale ISP customers clearly include provisions regarding our rights to manage our networks appropriately to the benefit of all customers."

Read more about it at "Bell to Play Traffic Cop on Internet Bandwidth" and "Canadian ISPs Furious about Bell Canada's Traffic Throttling."

Verizon Wants to Improve Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Performance with P4P

As other ISPs try to reduce and shape P2P traffic, Verizon has taken a different tack: investigating how to improve throughput with the new Proactive network Provider Participation for P2P (P4P) protocol. In tests with file sharing company Pando, use of P4P boosted performance between 200 and 600 percent.

Read more about it at: "Goodbye, P2P! P4P is Coming" "Verizon Embraces P4P, a More Efficient Peer-to-Peer Tech" and "With Eyes Open, Verizon Peers into the Future."

After Israeli Court Orders HttpShare Blocked, It Has to Upgrade Hardware to Respond to Increased Traffic

After an Israeli court ordered ISP providers to block HttpShare, a torrent search engine and link-only site, traffic sharply increased as a result of news coverage. The site now has a banner that says "Big Thanks to IFPI that bring us alot traffic!"

Read more about it at "'IFPI Advertising' Boosts Visitors to Blocked File-Sharing Site," "IFPI Gets Israeli ISPs to Block Hebrew Peer-to-Peer Site," "IFPI Pressure Forces ISPs to Block Another File-Sharing Site," and "'Year of Filters' Turning into Year of Lawsuits against ISPs."

The "Community Conscious Internet Provider" ISP: Utah Wants to Certify Porn-Free ISPs

Under a bill in the Utah legislature (H.B. 407), Utah would certify a qualifying ISPs as a Community Conscious Internet Provider (CCIP). The designation would be renewed annually.

Among other provisions, a CCIP ISP must "prohibit its customers by contract from publishing any prohibited communication"; "remove or prevent access to any prohibited communication published by or accessed using the Internet service provider's service within a reasonable time after the Internet service provider learns of the prohibited communication"; "maintain a record for two years following its allocation of an IP address of the IP address, the date and time of the allocation, and the customer to whom the IP address is allocated"; and "cooperate with any law enforcement agency by providing records sufficient to identify a customer if the law enforcement agency requests the information and supplies reasonable proof that a crime has been committed using the Internet service provider's service."

Prohibited communications are either pornographic (Section 76-10-1203) or harmful to minors (Section 76-10-1206) as determined by Utah law.

Read more about it at "Proposed Utah Bill Would Give Special Designation to ISPs That Block Porn" and "'This ISP Has Been Rated 'G' By the State of Utah'."

Australian ISP Porn Filter Test Gets Green Light

The Australian government is ready to proceed with testing an ISP Internet filter that aims to eliminate digital pornography. Customers who do not want a filtered Internet connection will need to opt out. Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said that the government's previous $85 million PC-based filter program, the NetAlert program, had "clearly failed."

Read more about it "ACMA Report Finds Little to Support Conroy's Enthusiasm for ISP Filtering," "Australia Moving Ahead with Plans to Erect ISP Porn Filters," "Net Filter at Test Phase," and "Web Porn Software Filter a Dud."

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