US Broadband: The FCC and Network Neutrality

Part 1 of a series (How US Broadband and Cellular Telecomm Got So Messed Up) on U.S. telecommunication infrastructure

Back in December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along partisan lines to approve network neutrality rules, rules which had not yet been made public. The proposed rules (pdf) were released on 23 December. The proposal features three primary points: transparency (Internet Service Providers can do whatever they want, so to speak, they just have to disclose what they are doing); no blocking (if content is legal, an ISP cannot "block" it, ditto applications, services and non-harmful devices); and no "unreasonable" discrimination against lawful traffic (which means yeah, it's OK to discriminate against spammers ... but there's no definition of "unreasonable"). As a concept, network neutrality is simple: just like telephone companies are required to treat competitor incoming calls like they would treat their own, ISPs should be prohibited from treating "bits" differently based on point of origin. However, as with most complex topics, the devil is in the details. And, in this case, also buried in a law written in 1934. …continue reading →

Who Should Win Google Fiber Contest?

It's been a bonanza for public relations folks who can dream up zany stunts that feed the our news media's thirst for "man bites dog" stories. Google reported Friday that they had received more than 1,100 community responses to the broadband fiber request for information (RFI) and more than 194,000 responses from individuals. The company dashed a bit of cold water on those hopes when it reminded us that the goal of this experiment is to "reach a total of at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people with this experiment." But what city/cities should really win Google's broadband challenge? [caption id="attachment_2894" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Greenville, SC Creates Google Logo With More Than 2,000 People Holding LED Glow Sticks; Photo by Michael Bergen, AidJoy.org"]Google Greenville[/caption] …continue reading →

What Does “High Speed Internet” Mean, Exactly?

Ever wonder what a company means when it says its internet service is "high speed"? Then check out this table that documents the plethora of technologies that the FCC counts as “broadband” -- be warned, speeds can vary by as much as 2000 percent! In short, "broadband" is defined by the FCC as anything other than "dial up" -- and "high speed" has no commonly-agreed-to definition. …continue reading →