Once again the FCC votes 3-2 to reinstitute Title II net neutrality rules

Cal Jeffrey

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What just happened? Here we go again. In a nearly identical vote from 2015, the FCC approved a proposal to move ISPs back under Title II public utility rules. It's a partisan tug-of-war that has been going on for 20 years. It will undoubtedly end up in the courts again, but the last two times, judges said the FCC can do what it wants.

On Thursday, the FCC voted 3-2 to reinstate "net neutrality" rules. The proposal will essentially classify internet service providers as public utilities governed under Title II instead of Title I. The FCC claims the rules would prevent broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic unless companies paid more, among other things.

Today's vote is the second time the Commission has voted to assign itself as the governor and regulator of private ISPs. The first time was in 2015 under the Obama administration. Those rules were then repealed in 2017, also along party lines, during the Trump administration.

Despite protests and cries that it was the end of a "free internet," nothing much seemed to change, and the fervor died out. There were some early lawsuits and claims alleging throttling, but nothing came of them. Eventually several states including California and Montana created their own net neutrality laws and mandates.

While proponents still claim that the government needs to regulate ISPs to prevent them from trying any funny business, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel says it is now a matter of "national security."

"Today, there is no expert agency ensuring that the internet is fast, open, and fair... Today, we begin a process to make this right. We propose to reinstate enforceable, bright-line rules to prevent blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization," said Rosenworcel. "When we stripped state-affiliated companies from China of their authority to operate in the United States, that action did not extend to broadband services, thanks to the retreat from Title II. This is a national security loophole that needs to be addressed."

However, opponents are calling it a power grab. Commissioner Brendan Carr points to the 2017 repeal and the fact that the internet "didn't break" as an example of why the rules are unnecessary.

"When my FCC colleagues and I voted in 2017 to overturn the Obama Administration's failed, two-year experiment with Title II, activists and politicians alike guaranteed the American public that the internet would quite literally break without it," Carr said in a Wednesday statement, a day before the vote. "Since that didn't happen, the FCC shouldn't reimpose the rules now. We already have a free and open internet today, without Title II."

Evan Swarztrauber, Senior Advisor at the Foundation for American Innovation, agrees with Carr. He points out that the fear-mongering rhetoric failed to materialize after the 2017 repeal, and internet service got better and cheaper when adjusted for inflation. Swarztrauber also believes that the FCC is barking up the wrong tree.

"In past iterations of this debate, we were told by Title II proponents that the rules were needed to protect free speech and internet openness," Swarztrauber told TechSpot. "The tragic irony is that the Big Tech companies who pushed for 'net neutrality' are the ones that have abused the open internet – not ISPs."

He points out that Google, Amazon, and Apple are all currently in court on antitrust issues that have been harming consumers for years, yet not one ISP is in court right now for throttling or blocking consumers or companies. The most recent throttling case appears to be FTC v. AT&T 2019, which settled out of court for $60 million.

Swarztrauber also says the "free speech argument" is a joke since "ISPs are the only layer of the internet stack not manipulating digital speech." And what's that about national security?

"So now we are told that Title II is critical for national security. Somehow, for the past 20 years of this discussion, the national security talking points eluded the topic of net neutrality. But now we are meant to believe that these rules are so critical and urgent to protect our country that the agency must act now!"

Interestingly, Chairwoman Rosenworcel has headed the FCC for two years so far. She has been actively vocal in the net neutrality debate, yet it is only in the weeks before the vote that she began tying it to national security.

Even though the Title II rules passed the vote, the issue is far from over. The Commission will now open the proposal up for public comment, which includes a period for rebuttals and ex parte presentations and critiques. After peer review and potential revisions prompted by sound arguments and feedback, the FCC will vote again.

If passed, it will most assuredly face legal challenges just as the first implementation and the subsequent repeal did. In both cases, the courts upheld the FCC's decision, saying that the agency can impose or repeal rules as it sees fit as long as it provides reasonable justification.

Image credit: Steve Heap

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The fact the ISPs are so against it is all I need to know it is important. If they didn't hope to one day be able to throttle and/or charge internet companies for the bandwidth already paid for by users, they wouldn't be putting up such a fuss.

I'm generally for free markets but the physical reality is that broadband pipes in many markets are still a monopoly granted to a single provider by local government. As long as local government is establishing by law a non-competitive monopoly, they have to treat it all the way as a utility, not pretend it's a "free market" where the consumer has choices to keep the companies honest.
 
The fact the ISPs are so against it is all I need to know it is important. If they didn't hope to one day be able to throttle and/or charge internet companies for the bandwidth already paid for by users, they wouldn't be putting up such a fuss.

I'm generally for free markets but the physical reality is that broadband pipes in many markets are still a monopoly granted to a single provider by local government. As long as local government is establishing by law a non-competitive monopoly, they have to treat it all the way as a utility, not pretend it's a "free market" where the consumer has choices to keep the companies honest.
I was thinking as I read it, "If I didn't notice a change and no one else noticed a change, then why did YOU(the ISPs) want title II removed and why are you so adamant about wanting Title I rules back?"
 
It would be better if they'd focus on actual problems like ISPs preventing competing ISPs from using their wire/fiber while manipulating local ordinances and government to prevent competitors from laying their own wire/fiber. This is just a distraction from actual issues. If this was an actual issue, we'd have hard evidence and the government would be ignoring it.
 
It would be better if they'd focus on actual problems like ISPs preventing competing ISPs from using their wire/fiber while manipulating local ordinances and government to prevent competitors from laying their own wire/fiber. This is just a distraction from actual issues. If this was an actual issue, we'd have hard evidence and the government would be ignoring it.
Speaking as someone who has FTTH in an area where there is finally competition - a cable provider, and at least two FTTH providers, there is nothing preventing what you suggest as it is. Then again, I'm in a solidly blue state and the state does not have any blatantly dumb laws like that one state (sorry I forget the name and quick search on TS did not find that exact article), a few years back, that passed a law preventing municipalities from being ISPs, and, therefore, favoring "industry ISPs" and their ridiculous prices, but its even worse than that - https://www.techspot.com/news/79739-26-us-states-ban-or-restrict-local-broadband.html

A few years back, there was no competition in my area, but that has changed, thankfully. Even so, I am definitely in favor of Net neutrality. Its about time that the FCC exercised its teeth, and I think she's right - it is a matter of national security.

EDIT: BTW - the fiber providers each have their own fiber.
 
Hence, Internet Service Provider's become a Utility.

And depending on how the law is worded, it could mean more privacy to the Customer, as THEY (themselves) are no longer the Service, but their (Our) usage is.


As a Utility, YOU (yourself) is no longer the product, you pay for a data pipe and their Price/Bandwidth is the Utility they provide. (ISP should no longer needs to track users & metrics and data or able to sell your data)

- Electric Companies don't need to know how many appliances are hooked up, or what they do... they ONLY need to know how much electricity you are using/consuming....

- ISP doesn't need to know what websites you visit, or how many people or connections you have, ONLY how much bandwidth you use...


ISP's predatory practices are way too much.
3 people on the same block can have the same package and have a differently monthly bill... ISPs are discriminatory towards current members, offering would-be/new members better deals.


It also means the ISP can not throttle content based on websites (Netflix, Prime, etc), unless you surpass your package's data threshold, etc.



 
Would be nice if the FCC could push through that data caps are detrimental and cannot be used. You know, stick it to the awful practices of the ISPs in the US.

ISP's becomes a pay-as-you-go utility..... selling bandwidth.

ie: if the house next to you uses 2x as much electricity as your house, they pay 2x for it...




 
ISP's becomes a pay-as-you-go utility..... selling bandwidth.

ie: if the house next to you uses 2x as much electricity as your house, they pay 2x for it...
Regulated utility rates are usually based on the actual cost of providing the service, plus an agreed up on profit rate for the investors who put up the capital.

So sure, in the case of electricity, where the fuel consumed to make the electricity is a significant fraction of the total cost, you end up with monthly bills where more electricity costs more money.

The difference for an ISP is that at ordinary consumer data volumes, the number of bytes moved is just not that significant contributor to the total expense. If you download 6 GB of data in a month and your neighbor downloads 12 GB, the ISP basically spent the same to service both houses, with almost all the cost being in the fixed expenses of infrastructure, customer support, equipment in the home and the headend, and the standard corporate overhead to run any business. So sure the neighbor might pay more -- but the fair bill might be $29.00 for one and $29.16 for the other.
 
BIDEN admin doing EVERYTHING they claimed Trump admin would do and didn't.

Democrat politicians, the great projectionists.

Enjoy world war three you warmongers.
 
Regulated utility rates are usually based on the actual cost of providing the service, plus an agreed up on profit rate for the investors who put up the capital.

So sure, in the case of electricity, where the fuel consumed to make the electricity is a significant fraction of the total cost, you end up with monthly bills where more electricity costs more money.

The difference for an ISP is that at ordinary consumer data volumes, the number of bytes moved is just not that significant contributor to the total expense. If you download 6 GB of data in a month and your neighbor downloads 12 GB, the ISP basically spent the same to service both houses, with almost all the cost being in the fixed expenses of infrastructure, customer support, equipment in the home and the headend, and the standard corporate overhead to run any business. So sure the neighbor might pay more -- but the fair bill might be $29.00 for one and $29.16 for the other.

You seem confused dude....

If you are paying $30/month for 12GB of data.... and your neighbor is using 2TB of data, bcs he has 3 kids streaming videos 24/7.... his Internet bill will be $120...!

That is exactly how it should be.
 
BIDEN admin doing EVERYTHING they claimed Trump admin would do and didn't.

Democrat politicians, the great projectionists.

Enjoy world war three you warmongers.
We've all heard that chant - "The end is nigh" for what, two-millenia, now? Now, however, every "big player" knows the consequences. There's no winning a Third WW.

But pointing the finger solely at the US fomenting such a fate is disingenuous, if you ask me. NK, Russia, and China equally share responsibility for the current world climate. The US is no angel, but neither are the rest of the countries that share the responsibility for the current world climate.

So, relax, enjoy your life.
 
Regulated utility rates are usually based on the actual cost of providing the service, plus an agreed up on profit rate for the investors who put up the capital.

So sure, in the case of electricity, where the fuel consumed to make the electricity is a significant fraction of the total cost, you end up with monthly bills where more electricity costs more money.

The difference for an ISP is that at ordinary consumer data volumes, the number of bytes moved is just not that significant contributor to the total expense. If you download 6 GB of data in a month and your neighbor downloads 12 GB, the ISP basically spent the same to service both houses, with almost all the cost being in the fixed expenses of infrastructure, customer support, equipment in the home and the headend, and the standard corporate overhead to run any business. So sure the neighbor might pay more -- but the fair bill might be $29.00 for one and $29.16 for the other.
The reality is that this is not the way that it has worked.

Before I dropped Spectrum for my ISP, I was paying something like $60/mo for 100Mb up, 30Mb down service. My neighbor was paying the same rate for 30Mb down, 5Mb up. Why? Because I played hard-ball with Spectrum and dropped their service for about 1-year, then took advantage of a ":rate deal" that was only available to first-time subscribers, I.e., people who had not been a Spectrum customer for 30-days or more.

When FTTH from another provider hit my area, Spectrum woke up. It was funny, for me, that two days after I switched to FTTH, I got a flyer in the mail from Spectrum saying "Congratulations. We upped your speed to 200Mb down 100Mb up (2x what I had) for the same rate," and Spectrum was offering this to every customer. All I could do was laugh and think - Yeah, right, I just got 5x the speed for less, and 🖕Spectrum.

That just goes to show that Spectrum was playing games with all their customers, and that competition was the reason they upped every customer - and not because they could not or any other of their fake reasons for not doing so other than to drain every $0.01 they could from all their customers.

Most people in my area now have a choice between Spectrum and at least two other ISPs that provide FTTH.
 
I was thinking as I read it, "If I didn't notice a change and no one else noticed a change, then why did YOU(the ISPs) want title II removed and why are you so adamant about wanting Title I rules back?"
I think the point was that after Title II was rescinded, nothing changed. So, why do we need Title II, if it's not protecting against an active threat?
 
The reality is that this is not the way that it has worked.
Yes that's correct. We were discussing what rates would look like if the service was treated the same way other monopoly utilities were. As far as I know such an approach does not exist in the United States. But your example is more evidence that despite ISP's trying to fool consumers that "per byte" is a major cost driver, it obviously is not or they would not be in any position to double the number of bytes at the same cost.

I think the point was that after Title II was rescinded, nothing changed. So, why do we need Title II, if it's not protecting against an active threat?
The obvious answer is that the major ISPs are smart enough to realize that getting it rescinded was a controversial partisan issue and that eyes would be on them to see what happens next. The strategy therefore has to be boil the frog slowly, not all at once.
 
Yes that's correct. We were discussing what rates would look like if the service was treated the same way other monopoly utilities were. As far as I know such an approach does not exist in the United States. But your example is more evidence that despite ISP's trying to fool consumers that "per byte" is a major cost driver, it obviously is not or they would not be in any position to double the number of bytes at the same cost.


The obvious answer is that the major ISPs are smart enough to realize that getting it rescinded was a controversial partisan issue and that eyes would be on them to see what happens next. The strategy therefore has to be boil the frog slowly, not all at once.
I'd be more in favor of opening up real competition rather than this. This does not prevent the ISP from jacking everyone's prices up. I'm also in favor of people paying for what they use. You want to download TB of data every day, great, you pay for that. I don't want to subsidize that by paying higher bills so you can you download more.
 
I'd be more in favor of opening up real competition rather than this. This does not prevent the ISP from jacking everyone's prices up. I'm also in favor of people paying for what they use. You want to download TB of data every day, great, you pay for that. I don't want to subsidize that by paying higher bills so you can you download more.
Absolutely as to competition.

re: "pay what you use" again I agree with the sentiment where there are real cost differences involved, but at the actual typical deltas between one house and the next this is mostly a made-up issue by the ISPs, just like it would be if they said they wanted to start charging more for people who watched NBC on both Monday and Tuesday instead of just Monday. The actual cost structure is largely fixed costs. Once they paid for the cable to the home, and the equipment on both sides, and the ability to service your account, and to acquire you as a customer, and to take customer support calls, and the corporate overhead for all that, the variable difference between you using 100 MB, 500 MB, or 2 TB is basically pennies. ("TB of data every day" is not a real use case either, there may be a few extreme statistical outliers in a whole system who try that and are usually dealt with one way or another.)
 
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Yes that's correct. We were discussing what rates would look like if the service was treated the same way other monopoly utilities were. As far as I know such an approach does not exist in the United States. But your example is more evidence that despite ISP's trying to fool consumers that "per byte" is a major cost driver, it obviously is not or they would not be in any position to double the number of bytes at the same cost.


The obvious answer is that the major ISPs are smart enough to realize that getting it rescinded was a controversial partisan issue and that eyes would be on them to see what happens next. The strategy therefore has to be boil the frog slowly, not all at once.

No we are not, we are talking about Utilities, not monopolies...

And "bandwidth" is a real thing and how much data ISP's can push to a particular neighborhood without it being clogged is a real thing. And yes you can use all the bandwidth in a neighborhood with 500 homes and people all streaming multiple football games Sat afternoon, internet slows down and TV picture starts to pixilate as bitrate slows down.


Utilities are constants, Consumers don't put up with, or like like brown-outs (from low energy on power grid), the infrastructure has to support it. Their job is to make it available to all... the utility should charge on usage...

like Water, electricity, oil, fuel, gas, wood, etc...
 
Your example of the football game - let's call it the Superbowl problem - illustrates why it is much more of a fixed vs. variable cost than you think it is.

The cable company knows that essentially everyone - whether on the cheapest plan or the highest - will be streaming the Superbowl, or watching Netflix during primetime, or whatever you want to call the peak need. The network therefore needs to be able to handle that peak load. And it turns out each customer's contribution to the total height of that peak load is pretty similar whether they are otherwise a low-bandwidth user who does almost nothing else during the week, or a high-bandwidth user who keeps watching 24x7. Thus the peak load - indicating the cost of the infrastructure - is defined much more by the total number of customers than by the individual behavior of any one customer.

So if your football game looks pixelated on your big game day, blame your cable company for cheaping out on your neighborhood infrastructure, not your neighbor for playing video games all night. Their torrents at 3 am have nothing to do with your game at noon, and the total traffic from them and the 20 other high-enthusiast users in the neighborhood are still basically rounding errors compared to the peak traffic generated by the mainstream 500.)

(I believe you're also significantly under-counting the magnitude of the other costs involved too. As one small example, if you barely use your internet at all but call customer service twice this month, you've cost the ISP a lot more than your neighbor who watched two movies every night. The lowest non-subsidized monthly cost is shaped by a lot of fixed charges; the cable co can't go much lower even if you barely use it at all; and until *a lot* of people use it *a lot* more, the total cost equation doesn't change materially.)
 
Your example of the football game - let's call it the Superbowl problem - illustrates why it is much more of a fixed vs. variable cost than you think it is.

The cable company knows that essentially everyone - whether on the cheapest plan or the highest - will be streaming the Superbowl, or watching Netflix during primetime, or whatever you want to call the peak need. The network therefore needs to be able to handle that peak load. And it turns out each customer's contribution to the total height of that peak load is pretty similar whether they are otherwise a low-bandwidth user who does almost nothing else during the week, or a high-bandwidth user who keeps watching 24x7. Thus the peak load - indicating the cost of the infrastructure - is defined much more by the total number of customers than by the individual behavior of any one customer.

So if your football game looks pixelated on your big game day, blame your cable company for cheaping out on your neighborhood infrastructure, not your neighbor for playing video games all night. Their torrents at 3 am have nothing to do with your game at noon, and the total traffic from them and the 20 other high-enthusiast users in the neighborhood are still basically rounding errors compared to the peak traffic generated by the mainstream 500.)

(I believe you're also significantly under-counting the magnitude of the other costs involved too. As one small example, if you barely use your internet at all but call customer service twice this month, you've cost the ISP a lot more than your neighbor who watched two movies every night. The lowest non-subsidized monthly cost is shaped by a lot of fixed charges; the cable co can't go much lower even if you barely use it at all; and until *a lot* of people use it *a lot* more, the total cost equation doesn't change materially.)
@m3tavision @waclark

People are making way too many assumptions and they are trying to make too many excuses for the theoretical limits of the infrastructure when that infrastructure is paid by you multiple times with both the subscription and the taxes you pay to the state. The infrastructure in the US, which is 100% controlled by the ISPs, is built with government money, aka your money.

If your neighbour is affecting your internet then you can 100% blame the ISP. It is their fault for poor, cheap, old equipment and cables.

Come to Bucharest, where almost everybody has 1Gbps internet for 9$ unlimited monthly, and tell me that my neighbours are affecting my internet. If I see any drop in internet stability I immediately call the ISP and 100% of the time it is because they are either repairing or changing something to the local infrastructure.
 
Absolutely as to competition.

re: "pay what you use" again I agree with the sentiment where there are real cost differences involved, but at the actual typical deltas between one house and the next this is mostly a made-up issue by the ISPs, just like it would be if they said they wanted to start charging more for people who watched NBC on both Monday and Tuesday instead of just Monday. The actual cost structure is largely fixed costs. Once they paid for the cable to the home, and the equipment on both sides, and the ability to service your account, and to acquire you as a customer, and to take customer support calls, and the corporate overhead for all that, the variable difference between you using 100 MB, 500 MB, or 2 TB is basically pennies. ("TB of data every day" is not a real use case either, there may be a few extreme statistical outliers in a whole system who try that and are usually dealt with one way or another.)
I understand what you are saying, but I don't fully agree. The costs are not fixed. New gear has to be continually added to deliver additional bandwidth and capabilities. The amount of gear needed for 100 1G customers is different than that needed for 100 100M customers. As you add customers and as customers require higher bandwidth delivered to the home you also have to add equipment. Not necessarily fiber in the ground, but you need datacenter switches, routers, firewalls and more. Comcast's operating expenses in the last 10 years has more than doubled from around $50B to over $100B. That's not pennies per customer.

According to AllConnect.com in the past 10 years data usage has increased 38X and you know that required upgrades to the systems supporting those users. If these numbers continue for the next 10 years, we could easily be at 1/2TB per day on average.

Think of it like a highway, just because you've built a 4-lane highway that supports traffic today doesn't mean that in a year or two you won't need another lane to support more traffic. It's not a case of build it once and you're done.
 
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