Archive for July, 2011
(Original at Public Knowledge)
It is unclear why excessive data use that does not cause network congestion matters to Comcast. It is further unclear how Comcast determined that 250 GB was “excessive” in 2008, and why it has not revised that level in the years since.
By Michael Weinberg on July 14, 2011
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While Comcast is not alone in imposing data caps, its data cap is problematic for at least two reasons. First, the punishment for going over the cap is draconian. Two violations in six months can result in one year of internet exile. For many customers, losing access to Comcast will be losing access to their best option for a fast internet connection. (Take a look at this chart of ISP performance from Netflix if you are not convinced. Notice that ISPs end up clustering by underlying technology type, with cable providers leading the pack followed by DSL and eventually wireless.)
Second, Comcast does not even claim that the caps serve a legitimate purpose. In 2008, Comcast drew an explicit distinction between throttling designed to ease network congestion and data caps designed to punish “excessive” users. It is unclear why excessive data use that does not cause network congestion matters to Comcast. It is further unclear how Comcast determined that 250 GB was “excessive” in 2008, and why it has not revised that level in the years since.
In fact, Comcast appears to now be contradicting statements it made to the FCC in the past about its data cap. In 2008, Comcast went to some pains to draw a distinction between congestion management practices such as peak time throttling and “excessive use” policies like data caps:
“These congestion management practices [such as throttling] are independent of, and should not be confused with, our recent announcement that we will amend the ‘excessive use’ portion of our Acceptable Use Policy, effective October 1, 2008, to establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB per account for all residential HIS customers. … That cap does not address the issue of network congestion, which results from traffic levels that vary from minute to minute.”
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Ultimately these caps punish consumers for trying to adopt new internet services, especially services based in the cloud. As the FCC noted in the National Broadband Plan, cloud-based services can bring huge benefits to the public. However, many cloud-based services involve transferring significant amounts of data back and forth between a user and a remote server. As a result, data caps allow ISPs to discourage people from using cloud-based services simply because they can.
(Original article at Ars Technica)
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Newspaper reports suggest that at least some [Canadian Telecommunications (CRTC)] commissioners aren’t buying arguments that the telcos need [usage-based billing] to “discipline” consumers so that they won’t congest networks with excessive downloading.
“No single user or wholesale customer is the cause of congestion,” Bell vice-president Mirko Bibic explained to the CRTC at the event. “But clearly, wholesale users contribute a disproportionate share of total traffic, and by extension, congestion.”
This did not impress CRTC Vice Chair Len Katz. “When I took a look at your forecast over the next five years, (Internet traffic) growth seems to have curtailed,” he challenged the telco. “Am I missing something here?”
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Canadian telecommunications advocate Michael Geist has been following the hearings as well. “By the time lunch rolled around, it was clear that claims that usage based billing practices are a response to network congestion is a myth,” Geist wrote about Monday’s discussions.
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This event follows a long and controversial debate about UBB. The fight went into high gear when the CRTC acceded to telco requests last September, granting them the right to charge indie ISPs on a metered wholesale basis (plus a 15 percent discount).
But in January, one of the indies published its new rate schedule just before the policy was about to go into effect. This included data caps that dropped from 200GB to 25GB in exchange for monthly rates that jumped by about CAN$10 a month.
The yogurt hit the fan. Over a third of a million people (around one percent of Canada’s population) signed openmedia.ca’s petition against wholesale metered billing. With all of Canada’s top parties raising hay about the matter, and elections approaching, Canada’s conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper got the memo. The government told the CRTC to suspend the decision—or have it done for them from above.
(Original at Barbara’s blog, Net Architecture)
The questions raised by the complaint are too important to be decided without public participation: The C Block of the 700 MHz band is currently the only spectrum that is subject to mobile network neutrality rules.
June 11, 2011
According to recent news reports, Verizon Wireless has asked Google to disable tethering applications in Google’s mobile application store, the Android Market. Tethering applications allow users to use laptops or other devices over their mobile Internet connection by attaching them to their smart phones.
In early June, Free Press filed a complaint with the FCC alleging that this behavior violates the openness conditions that govern the use of the part of the 700 MHz spectrum over which Verizon Wireless’s LTE network operates. The FCC seems to have designated the proceeding as a restricted proceeding under its ex parte rules, which means that the public will not be invited to comment on the issues raised by Free Press’s complaint.
Today, I asked the FCC to open up the proceeding for public comment. (The full text of the letter is here (pdf) and copied [on Barbara's blog].) The questions raised by the complaint are too important to be decided without public participation: The C Block of the 700 MHz band is currently the only spectrum that is subject to mobile network neutrality rules. Knowing that there is at least some part of the mobile spectrum that is protected by basic network neutrality principles is important for users, innovators and investors. Whether the openness conditions indeed afford protection depends, however, on how they are interpreted and enforced. Thus, the proceeding has important implications for many businesses, innovators and users in the Internet ecosystem, so they should have a chance to have their voice heard, too. In addition, as I explain in the letter, the proceeding raises important issues regarding openness in mobile networks in general. Here is the text of the letter.