FCC

How to Justify Continued Federal Meddling in Internet Service? Just Keep Changing the Goals!

FCC votes to change the definition of 'broadband,' increasing the minimum speed required.

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We need the government to make sure you can stream "House of Cards" here without any problems. IT'S IN THE CONSTITUTION, PEOPLE!
Credit: lecates / photo on flickr

Barack Obama and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have been flogging continued federal involvement in the providing of private broadband Internet service with the argument that some citizens' Internet speeds just aren't fast enough. It manifested recently in a call for local governments to get into the business of competing with private service providers and offering municipal broadband (oblivious to the reality that typically local governments have been the barrier to better Internet service, not the solution).

The news today is that, in order to flesh out the assertion that there are enough folks who can't get decent broadband, the FCC has voted, 3-2, to simply change the definition of broadband, increasing the base benchmark speed and, by regulatory fiat, declaring that millions of Americans who had "high-speed Internet" yesterday are now listening to Spotify with soup cans on strings. From The Guardian:

In a 3-2 vote, the commission approved a measure that increases the minimum standard for broadband speed, giving the agency more power to force internet service providers to improve their service.

The definition of broadband is set to be raised from 4 megabits per second (Mbps) to 25Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps to 3Mbps for uploads.

With that speed as the benchmark, significantly fewer Americans have access to high-speed broadband. Under the previous definition, 19 million Americans were without access; the new definition means that 55 million Americans – 17% of the population – now do not have access to high-speed broadband, according to the FCC's 2015 Broadband Progress Report, which is in the final editing process but was cited at the hearing.

It's like mission creep within mission creep. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 pushed the FCC into involvement in making sure broadband spreads across the country (like the FCC was needed for this in any way, shape, or form). As broadband improves, the FCC is going to make sure they get to keep their spoon in the stew (or whatever "too many cooks" metaphor applies) by just ordering innovation via regulation. Who is this "we" Commissioner Mignon Clyburn refers to?

"We are never satisfied with the status quo. We want better. We continue to push the limit, and that is notable when it comes to technology. As consumers adopt and demand more from their platforms and devices, the need for broadband will increase, requiring robust networks to be in place in order to keep up. What is crystal clear to me is that the broadband speeds of yesteryear are woefully inadequate today and beyond."

All of this is true, and yet none of what Clyburn says is an argument for direct FCC involvement. Commissioner Michael O'Rielly dissented, pointing out, "Selecting an artificially high standard and applying it in a way that is impossible to meet in order to reach all Americans certainly in the near term makes a mockery of a process that was supposed to provide an honest assessment of broadband deployment in the United States." He wondered that, because some people believe we're on the way to teleportation technology, whether the FCC should estimate the bandwidth needs for that as well. Don't give them any ideas.

In an interesting bit of a sort of cronyism as a result of the limits of technology, telecom companies that offer DSL services through the phone lines—AT&T and Verizon, for example—will not be forced to adapt to these new demands because it's physically impossible. This means broadband providers will be required by the FCC to improve their Internet speeds up and probably far beyond what many of their customers need, therefore driving up their prices and encouraging customers who don't need bleeding edge download speeds to consider dumping them for their phone company competitors to save money. No wonder cable companies are upset by the news.

From 2010, here's Nick Gillespie and Reason TV with three reasons why the FCC needs to stay away from the Internet. (Spoiler: "mission creep" is one of the reasons):

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80 responses to “How to Justify Continued Federal Meddling in Internet Service? Just Keep Changing the Goals!

  1. Mmmm. Tacos.

  2. The definition of broadband is set to be raised from 4 megabits per second (Mbps) to 25Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps to 3Mbps for uploads.

    By that definition, nobody in Tucson has broadband at their house, at least not consistently. I have the top-speed residential internet package at my house, and it typically clocks in at between 20 – 25 MBPS.

    And, nobody who has satellite internet or wifi-only access has internet.

    There are 13 entire states where the average speed is less than that.

    http://www.netindex.com/downlo…..ed-States/

    1. My speedtest result

      And that’s wireless, on my laptop, from 4 rooms away.

      1. If you have a newish 802.11n or 802.11ac router and you’re on 5ghz or an uncrowded 2.4ghz channel, the fact that you’re connecting wirelessly is not that notable.

        1. I have shit that’s so cool you can only dream about it.

          Actually, a pair of these:
          http://www.ubnt.com/unifi/unifi-ap-ac/

          But I have a lot of shit on my network. At least 15 wireless devices, by my count.

          1. Yes, I have heard that Ubiquiti gear is very nice.

            1. Their outdoor shit is amazing

      2. Holy shit. I’m on wireless in another room from my router, but I’m only getting around 20mbps. Fucking Comcast sucks.

      3. Dang. Yours IS bigger.

    2. We’re going to need some government programs for them.
      http://newdeal.feri.org/tva/tva10.htm

  3. I thought that free intertoobs was in the constitution? Where’s my free intertoobs?

    1. Right here, Hyp.

  4. Common carrier rules that a lot of net neutrality advocates push for would only encourage more competition in markets where most ISPs exist in near monopoly. Monopoly industries need to be challenged with competition to encourage innovation, lower costs, and increase quality. This is actually something the commission can do that no one should really find and issue with.

    The three reasons you cite are plainly illogical. Mission creep notwithstanding, there is a fire and discrediting the FCC by bringing up some of its censorship is just lazy. The US lags most industrialized countries in both cost and availability of broadband internet. The cost for peering has dropped dramatically and that has not been matched in consumer pricing or offerings. The main reason is there is no imperative because consumers have no other choices.

    4/1 was just as arbitrary as 25/4. However, this change will put some measure of pressure (however meaningless) on ISPs to provide more acceptable broadband access. 4Mbps isnt even enough fore Netflix’s overly compressed 1080p streams to one device. Most internet multimedia requires much more bandwidth.

    Quite literally, slow internet speeds will harm the US’ competitive ability and hurt entrepreneurs in any industry with any connection to the internet (read: most).

    1. Common carrier rules that a lot of net neutrality advocates push for would only encourage more competition in markets where most ISPs exist in near monopoly.

      Why would they?

      1. Because it’s NEUTRAL, don’t you get it?

        In reality, obscurehero is a trolling deuschbag and it’s just a straw man argument.

    2. So rather than do away with government-created monopoly, you’d prefer increasing government regulation.

      Quite literally, government regulation already harms the US’s competitive ability.

      1. So how do you propose to get rid of government created monopoly?

        By regulations?

    3. Is “near monopoly” like “mostly dead”?

  5. Meh, pretty par for the game. See also: (1) definition of obesity and (2) definition of uninsured.

    P.S. Can i now sue Comcast for false advertising and/or force them to increase my currently oh-so-slow, definitely-not-broadband speed from 17-20 mbps to 25 mbps or more?

    1. Comcast current internet speed is acceptable. If you want to sue them for something it should be for the worst customer service in the history of civilization. They are truly the worst company ever, there is not any other company in history who could even come close the horror that is Comcast.

      1. ATT pre-breakup, when telecoms were really regulated.

      2. It really is remarkable, and always worth repeating, how terrible their customer service is. Kafka himself would weep trying to deal with those people.

      3. Sorry but Verizon kills Comcast in shitty customer service. I actually switched to Comcast from Verizon because of it.

  6. Meanwhile, while working this sleight of hand, the FCC is somewhat quietly expanding their E-rate slush fund another $1.5B to almost $4B.

  7. If we’re subsidizing infrastructure, we shouldn’t be subsidizing stuff that’s already obsolete. I’m not really that outraged.

    1. Then stop subsidizing infrastructure.

  8. “This means broadband providers will be required by the FCC to improve their Internet speeds up and probably far beyond what many of their customers need, ”

    I disagree. To watch a high def Youtube video takes around 5-6 mb. Take the average family of four and you can easily hit 20-24 mb on average usage. 25mb is still low; wait another year or two for 4K TV to take off. Or families to drop cable TV and stream more shows from Hulu, HBO Go, etc.

    I wonder if the author realizes he’s making the same arguments that Comcast has been trying to make?

    1. I wonder if the author realizes he’s making the same arguments that Comcast has been trying to make?

      Now there’s the mark of a serious thinker.

      1. Okay, so other than bland insult, what’s your critique of my comment?

        1. Your comment is a collection of random talking points. It’s not worth critiquing. If I was grading it, it would be “incomplete.”

          1. And you choose to ignore all of them. Bravo.

            At least others are willing to engage instead of resting on their knowledge of the marketplace.

        2. Who said I was critiquing your comment?

          1. So you were just insulting me. Got it.

            1. Holy shit.

              1. Give up on this guy. His only solution is MORRZZZ GUBERNMENT!!!!

    2. Another millennial shows up. Let me see, in the cosmic calendar that is my lifetime, we went from NO internet* to writing text-only email in PINE, to my home watching high def, instantly available movies, streaming on demand in about *looks at watch* fifteen minutes.

      I’m not sure what it is you think government is going to “fix” here, but I suspect your answer will involve the Koch brothers.

      *this is very difficult for young people to perceive. So difficult, I suspect that the words “NO internet” will be interpreted as an oddity, something that’s to be glossed over and brushed aside. But think about it… NO internet. It didn’t exist in the American home.

      1. I think it’s the same troll as obscurehero

      2. So because you disagree with me, you automatically make assumptions about my political beliefs? Really?

        And.. I’m really not sure what your point is. Things change and you’re old, stay off the lawn stupid kid? That’s about all I get.

        3mbps might have been fine a few years ago. So was Windows 95. You seem to be suggesting that progress is a bad thing.

        1. 3mbps might have been fine a few years ago. So was Windows 95. You seem to be suggesting that progress is a bad thing.

          No, I’m saying progress is happening, and it doesn’t need a government agency to make it so.

          1. Thank God for the federal government, without them we never would have gotten Windows Vista.

          2. You’re right. But clearly the Government agency isn’t working either. Every since this interweb thing started, the FCC hasn’t been involved. And we have Comcast, TW, and a few others with monopolies in their towns, local governments blocking competition, states preventing local governments from competing with private industry. I can’t imagine how the FCC involvement here can make things any worse than they are. Regulating the internet as a common carrier will ensure equal access to poles and tunnels for competitors like Google Fiber and others that want to provide quality service at decent prices, instead of the same old crummy product with ever increasing prices for declining service.

            1. No it won’t. It will ensure a federal government licensing scheme complete with the thousands of regulations that cover common carriers, that is all.

              You obviously don’t know jack shit about telecom regulation and have never really experienced the nightmare that was Ma Bell.

            2. I can’t imagine how the FCC involvement here can make things any worse than they are.

              Fascinating. The precautionary principle for individuals, but free reign for government agencies. Heads I win, tails you lose.

            3. I can’t imagine how the FCC involvement here can make things any worse than they are.

              I grew up under Ma Bell. Bakelite phones with rotary dials. You got dressed up before you called long distance. I can very MUCH imagine how the FCC can make this worse. A LOT worse.

              1. And FCC regulation will do nothing of the sort. Ma Bell isn’t coming back. It was the breakup of the Bell system that improved things in the first place.

                Right now MaBell telephone has been replaced by Uncle Comcast and Cousin Time Warner internet.

                1. The breakup of the bell system that the federal government created.

                  Right now MaBell telephone has been replaced by Uncle Comcast and Cousin Time Warner internet.

                  Not even CLOSE in comparison.

                  I get several fliers a month from various competitors offering me broadband internet.

                  In 1972, guess how many phone carriers I could choose?

                  1. How many competitors can you really choose in broadband? Unless you’re lucky enough to live in the few places that has actual competition, you have two: cable company and phone company.

                    1. I think three, four if I count Directv.

    3. Take the average family of four and you can easily hit 20-24 mb on average usage. 25mb is still low; wait another year or two for 4K TV to take off.

      This does not compute. How will 4k tv “take off” without an executive order from Obama?

      Or is it possible it’ll take off the same way we were all watching youtube videos at 240p when the site first went online, to now watching videos at 1080p (and now 4k for some videos) without a five-member panel in a government agency armed with spiffy binders to make it so.

      What’s funny is young people are always heralded is being “so important” because they’re a better barometer of the future, and yet so many can’t imagine technology beyond their iPhone 6.

      1. Netflix is already streaming in 4K. 4K TV’s are common and will be even more affordable next Christmas.

        Jimminy Tap Dancing Cricket. No wonder the libertarian movement is always spinning its wheels. Too many people stuck in the past and can’t see a future further than yesterday.

        I’m surprised more people aren’t complaining about the technology in their cars, and how the model T was good enough.

        1. Nothing screams future like Ma Bell.

        2. This is bad trolling, whose sockpuppet is this?

          1. I get it, you’ve got nothing to add except insults. Isn’t that trolling by definition?

            1. You’ve got nothing interesting to offer except empty platitudes and pipe dreams.

              1. Then we agree to end the conversation between us. Goodbye.

        3. Have I misunderstood you? Were you just freestyling about how much more bandwidth we’re going to need as 4k video becomes “a thing” (which, by the way, is damn near useless on any ‘standard’ livingroom tv)?

          I understood you to be implying that woe-be-to-us if Net Neutrality isn’t visited upon us in haste, lest we get choked off from our delicious 4k webcasts?

          1. Dude, markets don’t satisfy demand without the guiding hand of government.

          2. You understand FCC regulation is not the same thing as net neutrality right?

            1. I understand that Net Neutrality is FCC regulation. I understand that the FCC is attempting to further regulate the internet from multiple vectors. You do understand that FCC regulation A and FCC regulation B are both forms of FCC regulation, right?

              1. Yes, but they aren’t the same. One is regulating the physical access to the internet. Wires, switch rooms, that type of thing. The other is regulating the service itself.

                Regulation in and of itself isn’t necessarily bad. We have a monopoly situation where the telecoms have put up significant barriers to entry. Local government has no incentive to change since they’re making money on franchise fees.

                What’s the solution to provide better service speeds? Lower prices? Competition in the market place? Everything on the internet is subject to competition, execpt the pipe that brings it to our homes. What’s the solution if not forcing the opening of the physical infrastructure (on public land or rightaways) through FCC fiat?

                1. What’s the solution to provide better service speeds?

                  The same solution that got you the internet you use right now.

                  What’s the solution if not forcing the opening of the physical infrastructure (on public land or rightaways) through FCC fiat?

                  I had this exact same conversation with a co-worker, way back in the 90s about Microsoft. He couldn’t imagine a world without microsoft dominating every device everywhere. There would be NO computing without microsoft, he said. The federal government HAD to step in and break microsoft up.

                  “Microsoft, will be made increasingly irrelevant, because someone, somewhere won’t try to beat them on the PC (we didn’t call them desktops back then, because EVERYTHING was a desktop) they’ll simply do and end run around the pc”

                  I said this in the mid 90s.

                  1. I have AT&T. I”m not getting any faster speeds because they refuse to upgrade their lines to fiber. Unless of course Google Fiber comes along, then all of sudden they can’t upgrade fast enough.

                    We’re not talking the same language here. I don’t want the status quo. I have two choices in my area: AT&T and Time Warner. Unless something changes, that’s the only two options I’ll ever have. Because they control access to the poles and tunnels to run cable. No one can come along and make them irrelevant without access to the physical infrastructure points. Points usually on public property that my local governments have given over a monopoly to TW and AT&T. There is zero incentive to change that.

                    FCC regulation as a common carrier will end the monopolistic control of physical infrastructure and mandate the ability of competitors to have access.

                    1. I have AT&T. I”m not getting any faster speeds because they refuse to upgrade their lines to fiber. Unless of course Google Fiber comes along, then all of sudden they can’t upgrade fast enough.

                      So you’re saying that in this chaos of different competitors offering upgrades, progress is happening. Check.

                      I don’t want the status quo. I have two choices in my area: AT&T and Time Warner.

                      Mo-no-poly. One.

                      I believe I have three, maybe four if I include DirecTV.

                      Because they control access to the poles and tunnels to run cable. No one can come along and make them irrelevant without access to the physical infrastructure points.

                      I’m not going to deny that right-of-way rules that local government set up make it difficult for new upstarts to offer service. But the FCC is exactly the worst possible solution. You’re making a deal with Darth Vader, Landau.

                    2. I’ll pick another movie. In the realm of people or organizations that can force the end of local monopolies…

                      There can be only one.

                      It’s not the courts. Its not the states. Its the FCC.

                    3. I have AT&T. I”m not getting any faster speeds because they refuse to upgrade their lines to fiber. Unless of course Google Fiber comes along, then all of sudden they can’t upgrade fast enough.

                      The FCC is subsidizing Google Fiber?

        4. You really don’t see the difference between progress and government-mandated “progress?”

          1. What progress do we have now without government?

            The pipes that Comcast delivers to our house is holding back progress. And because of franchise licenses, that’s not going to change on its own.

            1. And what are franchise licenses?

            2. What progress do we have now without government?

              You’re not serious with this, right? I’ll say it again, in just a couple of years we’ve gone from watching 240p grainy video to 4k streaming video.

              In the same short period I’ve gone from a flip phone with no internet capability to watching 1080p movies on my smart phone via 4g connectivity while waiting on my Chicken Katsu, while the guy next to me sends LOL pics to his friends.

              What exactly is it that’s being held back? That we should all be walking around with VR helmets on, playing Halo in 200000p while our flying car takes us to work?

              Do I agree that government needs to get out of the broadband business? Yeah. Do I think that the federal government getting involved in the broadband business will fix the fact that local governments have created a cozy relationship with some carriers? No, and hell no.

              1. I’ll stipulate that an ideal world would mean the government isn’t involved at all. But since this isn’t a perfect world, I’ll have to take it as it is.

                How do you see the barriers to competition being removed? Remember, local governments won’t get out of the way on their own.

                1. So why is your solution to add more government instead of remove it?

                2. How do you see the barriers to competition being removed? Remember, local governments won’t get out of the way on their own.

                  I, for one, would think that congress simply passing a law disallowing local government monopoly franchising for broadband would be a legitimate use of the Commerce Clause (ensuring a free trade area in the several States)

  9. the FCC has voted, 3-2

    What is the voting process? Who are the people voting? What are their financial interests? Do they have contact with, or are they contacted by other members of the government? Are they susceptible or available to be lobbied by other agencies or individuals who have specific interests? Is there a sequestration process? How are they chosen?

    1. All the answers are available on the interweb. Some of the answers might even be factual.

      1. Oh good, here is another bureaucracy fellator who can’t even be bothered to learn about the bureaucracy he’s fellating.

        Somehow the FCC unicorn is going to magic us into perfect Internet wonderland, but you can’t be bothered to learn any details of how the actual Federal Communications Commission will actually implement an actual policy and what the actual consequences will be.

  10. So 40M people are going to have their broadband internet taken away from them under Obama’s watch? How is that something to brag about?

  11. I currently have 25MB Comcast internet, only because it was a free upgrade from the basic speed for a year. Once it runs out, I was going to go back to the slowest internet; honestly, I don’t really notice a difference between the two speeds, because I don’t really watch videos.

    Does this mean I’m screwed?

    1. Um, I have 25 mbps Comcast too and that’s the slowest speed I can get from them. Must be a location thing.

      1. Yeah, 25MB is the fastest in my area. I live on Cape Cod and it can take a while to upgrade infrastructure due to all the various zoning commissions.

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