Tag Archives: data throttling

Net Neutrality War Rages On!

On April 23rd of 2018 net neutrality will die. The FCC ruling will take affect and the Internet as we know it will change dramatically. There is a lot that could happen between now and then so the war against the ruling rages on.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong

Lies were told.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating claims that millions of comments provided to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the repeal were fake. The GAO is looking into the claim that the comments were made by bots impersonating real people.

One study estimated that removing the fake comments left 98.5 percent majority against the FCC’s repeal. According to Emprata.com “The lack of user authentication by the Electronic Comments Filing System (ECFS) makes it difficult to determine ‘genuine’ comment submissions.”

Emprata.com also pointed out that, “9.93 million comments were filed from submissions listing the same physical address and email, indicating that many entities filed multiple comments. This was more prevalent in comments against repeal of Title II (accounting for 82% of the total duplicates), with a majority of duplicate comments associated with email domains from FakeMailGenerator.com.”

ARS Technica did an analysis of the comments and found that hundreds of comments were filed with identical time stamps. Other evidence indicated that others were posted at a steady rate, “unlike the way humans would send in comments.” Others were considered suspicious because the were in all caps indicating they may have been generated or submitted from a database.

The fake comments were so blatant and obvious that even Barack Obama of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was listed as commenting in favor of repealing net neutrality.

The FCC, under the command of Ajit Pai has steadfastly refused to investigate this evidence or hear from others who have complained of the fake comments.

Another lie that came from the net neutrality war was that the Obama administration put pressure on the FCC to maintain net neutrality. The FCC’s own investigation proved otherwise. Motherboard.com obtained a copy of the investigation’s findings via the Freedom of Information Act. Reaching back to 2015 FCC investigators reviewed at least 600,000 emails from all five commissioners seeking evidence indicating the Obama White House pressured the FCC. The report’s final summary reads as follows;

“In conclusion, we found no evidence of secret deals, promises or threats from anyone outside the Commission, nor any evidence of any other improper use of power to influence the FCC decision-making process. To the contrary, it appears that to the extent entities outside of the Commission sought to influence the process, the positions were made known in the record, in full view of all.”

The rebellion inside the FCC.

As you probably already know the Democratic members of the FCC have been vociferous about their opposition to the repeal of net neutrality. But they are not alone among those inside the FCC who oppose the ruling.

The FCC’s own Chief Technology Officer, Eric Burger, who was appointed by Chairman Pai in October, pointed out that the repeal could allow internet service providers (ISP) to block or throttle specific websites. In an email Burger said “Unfortunately, I realize we do not address that at all. Burger went on to say, “If the ISP is transparent about blocking legal content, there is nothing the Federal Trade Commission can do about it unless the FTC determines it was done for anti-competitive reasons. Allowing such blocking is not in the public interest.”

States Rebel

Regardless of the FCC effort to rollback net neutrality it appears that states have declared an open rebellion to the new rule. According to the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution federal law wins if state laws conflict with federal laws. But several states have take it upon themselves to fight for net neutrality Supremacy Clause be damned!

Currently more that half of the states are setting their own net neutrality protections. California, New York, Montana, Hawaii, and Vermont have all passed legislation that is intended to protect net neutrality. According to the FCC states aren’t allowed to pass their own net neutrality laws.  But that hasn’t stopped them. At least 21 states have sued the FCC to restore its original rules.

Most recently Nebraska, a state glowing Republican red, has also struck back at the the ruling. State Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) introduced legislation to establish net neutrality regulations in law on the state level.  Morfeld’s bill prevents broadband providers from slowing down or blocking internet content and from cutting deals with content companies to give them faster connection speeds. It should be noted that this is just a bill and not yet law.

In Montana the governor, Steve Bullock, a Democrat, issued an executive order in January making ISPs who do not observe net neutrality ineligible for state contracts. This move is intended to preserve net neutrality in the state without passing any law that violates the Supremacy Clause. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a similar order.

Currently there are 21 states and various interest groups that have launched legal challenges to the FCC ruling. In Congress there are currently 50 votes to block the net neutrality rule, one short of the number needed to stop it. The war rages on.

Breaking It Down.

If anyone thinks that the end of net neutrality is near think again. This issue will be fought all the way into the mid-term elections and even the next presidential election. There are just too many questions around the legitimacy of the decision. For such an unpopular decision to take affect is mind boggling. Even if the decision stands, which I doubt very seriously, the states are basically going to undermine it. They have already begun to institute rules forcing the ISP to disregard the new FCC ruling. It it won’t stop there. The big telecoms are playing a game of chicken with the market. Let me explain. The big ISPs and cell service providers were living fat and happy with the cellphone market firmly in their grasp. The had consumers locked up with long term contracts and high rates. Then along came the little guys with a better deal. They were forced to bow to market pressure and now the rates are pretty cheap and the contracts are gone. Same for cable television. They got too expensive and now everybody is cutting the cord. The Internet is the only game left in the telecommunications sector. The big ISPs can start throttling data or blocking websites if they want to. But how long before some small company starts screaming, “NO THROTTLING AND NO BLOCKED WEBSITES!  in their advertising. And before long the game is back where it started. What I am saying is that big ISPs are going to fold. There will be a lot more and a lot smaller ISPs taking over the market soon. The big companies need to move on to something else.

 

 

 

T-Mobile to Pay for Misleading Customers

t-mobile-logoThe FCC has dropped the hammer on cell provider T-Mobile. T-Mobile USA Inc. agreed to cough up at least $48 million for making customers believe it offered a truly unlimited data plan. It was never true.

An FCC investigation that began last year  looked into whether the company properly disclosed that it was slowing down data speeds for heavy users. In the cell phone industry this is a common practice known as throttling.

As part of the agreement T-Mobile will pay a $7.5 million fine and offer $35.5 million in customer benefits that includes data upgrades and discounts on accessories. The giant cell provider will also spend another $5 million to improve mobile high-speed Internet access for as many as 80,000 low-income public school students.

Travis LeBlanc, head of the FCC Enforcement Bureau said, “Consumers should not have to guess whether so-called unlimited data plans contain key restrictions, like speed constraints, data caps and other material limitations.When broadband providers are accurate, honest and upfront in their ads and disclosures, consumers aren’t surprised and they get what they’ve paid for.”

The FCC enforced settlement applies to T-Mobile’s unlimited data plans but not its Binge On service.

According to the FCC it began investigating in March 2015 after T-Mobile and pre-paid service provider MetroPCS customers complained. T-mobile customers complained about being mislead by the so-called unlimited data plan. According to the FCC the plan throttled customer data speeds after a certain data threshold is used each month.

T-Mobile “de-prioritized” heavy users data speeds during times of network congestion. Unlimited plan subscribers who consumed more than 17 gigabytes of data in a given month, typically about  3% of its users, were subject to slower speeds than advertised.

The FCC found that T-Mobile failed to properly notify its customers of the restriction from August 2014 to June 12, 2015.  T-mobile has agreed to better inform its customers of the restrictions and notify customers when their data usage approaches the monthly limit at which it could be slowed.

For T-Mobile  customers they could get 20% off the regular price for any accessories up to $20 and an automatic upgrade of 4 gigabytes of data for one month, valued at $15 that can be used over the course of a year under its “data stash” program. MetroPCS customers automatically get the 4GB of data to use over two months. The company must also notify eligible customers of the benefits by Dec. 15.

In an effort to help bridge the digital divide T-Mobile has also agreed to spend an additional $5 million providing free tablets and other mobile devices to low-income public school districts. Beginning in October 2017 eligible schools will receive reduced-cost mobile broadband services for the devices. Students and their families will get the service at no cost. The program will enroll 20,000 students annually over four years.