Friday, February 6, 2015

The most important aspect of the new FCC proposal on Net Neutrality

So it has happened. FCC Chairman Wheeler has announced that he wants to bring broadband (both wired and wireless) under Title-II provisions. Network Neutrality advocates are ecstatic, hailing him as a hero. The fact sheet outlining the FCC proposals is available here.

I found myself initially disappointed, and thought that this might actually be a retrograde step for consumers. The reason for that was the Bright Line Rules that the FCC highlighted: no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization were not actual, real problems. ISPs don't block (that's the job of governments), ISPs do not explicitly throttle - there are sophisticated ways of achieving the same result and I don't know of any actual "paid prioritization" (i.e. QoS provided for specific content on routers/switches in exchange for money). The real problem is paid peering which does not come under the purview of the Bright Line Rules.

Additionally, the forbearance that has been explicitly stated includes "no unbundling" which is not pro consumer. The proposal also completely ignores "zero rating" which is the functional equivalent of fast lanes and could be a big problem down the road.

However, something that I missed but went back to when I was reading a post by Jon Brodkin, is the 4th bullet point of the provisions of Title-II that will be enforced. It says:

o Ensures fair access to poles and conduits under Section 224, which would boost the deployment of new broadband networks 

This is the single most important part of the new FCC proposal. My initial reaction has been that FCC has done nothing to promote competition, but I take it back. We have always maintained that competition is the real issue, not network neutrality and there are many others who say the same thing, e.g. from Jon's publication Ars Technica there is an excellent post by Peter Bright saying We don’t need net neutrality; we need competition. Fair access to Poles and Conduits is critical to increasing broadband competition in the US, and that's the real problem to be solved, not enforcement of "Net Neutrality".


  1. does poles and conduits include towers? many a "consumer" would benefit from public, transparent rates for tower access. Talk to cringley.

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