On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission released its long-awaited National Broadband Plan, which has become shorthand for a comprehensive set of new policies the agency plans to promote. The plan encompasses everything from digitizing medical records to telework, distance education, a nationwide emergency-responders communications network and, perhaps most importantly, a drive to spur competition in the broadband ISP sector, increase access and median data-transfer speeds nationwide, and lower prices in the process (making us, one day, perhaps on par with more advanced European and Asian countries). For a very superficial overview of the plan’s high points, check here.
The telecom pundits are all a-twitter about this plan, and its relative wonderfulness. But it behooves breaking down some of the basics: Continue reading “FCC's Broadband Plan: Show Me Action, Not Words”
It’s difficult, even for me, to wrap my head around the scale and scope of the merger-in-progress between Comcast and NBC/Universal. I’ll leave it to Harold Feld, who comprehensively (and in eminently-readable fashion) analyzes the implications of this deal.
Quoth Feld, “In ideological terms, it is rather like Vatican City joining the Arab League.” Distinctively, it’s the first merger where historical enemies in the Big Media marketplace are now combining. The implications are massive; Comcast’s promises of the merger’s benefits clearly ring hollow. Continue reading “Comcastic Adventures: Coming to Everyone?”
I know that one of the prime adages of the media reform movement goes something like that if your first issue-of-interest is not “fixing the media,” then it should be your second. Can that sometimes work the other way around? With respect to recent developments in the auto industry, I would argue yes.
Since 1997, the year I started writing online, I’ve been the (somewhat) proud owner of a Saturn SC2. Not the most perfectly-built car (at least it looks fast). I just flipped the 108,000 mile-mark on it this weekend; I drove it off the lot with just 215. It’s the first and, perhaps, the only brand-new car I’ll ever own. Now, General Motors has gone into bankruptcy, and as a part of this move it’s spun Saturn off to a third party (so at least I’ll still get parts and service). That’s nice. It’s the rest of GM I worry about. Continue reading “GM Loses A Potential Customer”
By now, you’ve all heard about the FCC slapping Comcast’s wrists for engaging in data discrimination; it’s simply been required to disclose its current and future “network management” practices, under penalty of…nothing, really. Both Comcast and those who called for the FCC to act on its shady attempts at subverting network neutrality are appealing the FCC’s decision.
We’ve already covered Comcast’s history of opaque and unreliable service, especially when it comes to crippling your e-mail. Comcast’s initial response to the FCC ruling has been the announcement of a 250 gigabyte per-month usage cap on all residential users, effective next month, with extra-special throttling on the most intensive users at any given time (to be determined at Comcast’s discretion). Continue reading “Comcastic Adventures: Capping Your Bandwidth”
What a difference a weekend makes.
Last week, Congress passed a bill retroactively legalizing and expanding the surveillance of the communications of U.S. citizens. This bill may have unintended and negative effects on the campaign to re-instill the principle of network neutrality as a point of law.
Shortly after Congress’ action, two developments took place: both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuits against the FISA Amendments Act, challenging its constitutionality on a number of levels. Notably, none of the principals of the media-reform movement have signed onto these legal efforts as of yet. Continue reading “"Glimmer" Downgraded to "Mirage"”
Although Congress may have just inadvertently given telecommunication companies a huge legal boost to engage in network management via the pretext of “terrorism-related” surveillance, it is a long shot from being a done deal. For starters, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has launched the first in what is expected to be a multi-lateral legal attack on the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act; the starting point is a claim that the law violates the separation of powers clause of the Constitution, in that Congress’ action unconstitutionally empowered the Executive branch while emasculating any judicial oversight or reprimand of abuses conducted under the permission of the legislature.
Should the entire FISA Amendments Act be declared unconstitutional – and not just the provision granting telecom companies retroactive immunity for spying on us without proper legal justification – the diminishment of network neutrality under the auspices of national security would be undermined, perhaps fatally. That would be a very good thing. EFF’s legal experts don’t expect action on their lawsuit to really begin to gain traction until later this year – right around (or shortly after) the November elections. The case itself won’t likely be resolved until sometime next year at the earliest. Continue reading “Glimmers of Hope for Network Neutrality”
Today the U.S. Senate voted to approve legislation that essentially legalizes the warrantless surveillance of the communications of U.S. citizens. We know such behavior’s been going on for more than two years, when a whistleblower stepped forward to disclose that AT&T had been working closely with the National Security Agency (NSA) – so much so that the NSA now has its own special rooms in AT&T communications backbone facilities. In these rooms are giant, electronic taps that essentially monitor, record, and allow for the analysis of every phone call, facsimile transmission, and all other electronic communications passing through AT&T’s network.
As the largest telecommunications provider in the United States, it is virtually impossible for any communications network traffic to travel from point A to point B without transiting some node in AT&T’s vast infrastructure. Which in effect means that for as long as this program has been going on, we’ve all been under Big Brother’s scrutiny to some degree. Continue reading “Congress Shreds Constitutional Privacy, But It's Not Over Yet”
It should come as no surprise that my experience as a Comcast broadband subscriber is matching up with many others: extra-sh*tty. Comcast has been flogged extensively elsewhere about its draconian “bandwidth management” techniques – throttling some traffic, blocking others, and now testing new technologies in preparation for implementing this non-neutral network management practice nationwide. And Comcast is not alone in this trend.
My problem with Comcast, however, has had nothing to do with BitTorrent, Skype, Gnutella, or Lotus Notes. It has everything to do with the most important application for which I use the Internet – e-mail.
The problem began a couple of months ago, when those of us in Champaign-Urbana began to be assimilated into the larger Comcast network-borg. I expected an increase in intermittent service outages, but I did not expect my e-mail to stop coming in. But it did, and after two months of sleuthing with Comcast’s evasive and mostly-impotent technical support, I think I have figured out the problem. Continue reading “Comcastic Adventures: Spiking Your E-Mail”
About a year ago, I dumped my AT&T DSL connection in favor of our local cable broadband provider, Insight Communications. I did so because AT&T failed to follow through on one of its promises made when it bought BellSouth – that customers could receive discounted, DSL-only service (without the need to have phone service bundled in). Needless to say, I was very happy to leave the orbit of the Death Star, and even happier to have a locally-accessible alternative.
You can imagine my dismay when I read last spring that Comcast declared its intent to buy out Insight, and recently I received a letter in the mail informing me that I would officially become a Comcast customer in short order. Continue reading “Broadband in America: Freedom of Choice?”
Right before the new year, without the benefit of a public meeting or vote, the FCC approved the corporate marriage of AT&T and BellSouth. With this $85 billion deal, Ma Bell is basically just two mergers away from being fully-reconstructed.
Harold Feld of the Media Access Project has already compiled an excellent summary of reaction to the deal, though his own perspective is much more optimistic than mine. I understand that AT&T’s commitment to the preservation of network neutrality is key concession made for the deal, but their 24-month pledge to the principle is six months shorter than the initial acquiescence it made when the FCC merger negotiation-debate began months earlier. Continue reading “The Merger of AT&T and BellSouth: Thanks for (Almost) Nothing”