Points of interest from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's speech at Silicon Flatirons Center in Boulder Colorado February 9, 2015.
It's great that Chairman Wheeler addresses "the lack of meaningful competition." That is a statement that we would agree with, however at the heart of Net Neutrality is what is the solution to allowing meaningful competition and what are the consequences of "fair and open" Internet? I would argue that's it's not terribly different from real health care reform - the answer to both? Less government, not more. And that's inclusive of government at all levels. State governments are where state health care mandates come from and many states prevent individuals form purchasing across state lines. One simple change - allow individuals from any state to purchase plans from any other state and suddenly you're not having to pay for services mandated by your state that you don't want, such as well-child care currently mandated in 31 states, if you don't have kids.
In the case of Net Neutrality, Chairman Wheeler's idea of increasing competition is summed up in part of his speech, "Many communities, including these two petitioners, have concluded that existing private sector broadband offerings are not meeting their needs and the only solution is to become directly involved in broadband deployment." By communities he's saying local government should become involved in broadband deployment. By implication saying that while these private sector companies spent millions to drag the fiber and install the equipment needed to provide these services they should be taken down a peg or two with "competition" from government.
This also skips the requirements many states already put on backbone providers. In Nevada backbone providers are already considered a public utility, ILEC/RBOC - Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier / Regional Bell Operating Carrier, and as such are regulated by the Nevada Public Utility Commission. In the next step down a company can file to become a CLEC, Competitive Local Exchange Carrier, and from there work to enter into expensive agreements with the ILECs in Nevada to resell across their lines. The ILEC is going to be the company that has made the capital investment, which Chairman Wheeler is so dismissive of, in order to bring these services to a given area. Like any other business they are not going to bring it to areas where they cannot recoup their investment, hence the reason why many rural areas do not have the same level of service as dense metropolitan areas.
The CLECs have a larger stake in the equation than local ISPs, as they are also filed as utilities with the Nevada Public Utility Commission and have entered into agreements with the ILECs usually with an initial investment of at least $10,000 per agreement. Next you have the local ISPs, now this is where competition has been really cut down in the last 10 years and nothing about Chairman Wheeler's proposal does anything to help this market sector. From our perspective this market sector is the place to really expand competition and service. We get countless calls everyday from individuals looking to get away from Charter and AT&T and work with a local ISP again.
Chairman Wheeler also briefly gives lip service to wireless service providers, "Internet protections would apply equally to both wired and wireless networks...", many of whom have local owners who are looking to help service the under served with their technology. Wireless technology, especially in our area has taken hold due to the Internet pits of despair we have in Northern Nevada, such as Greg street in Sparks, the Virginia Highlands, or Washoe Valley. Wireless providers have come in and strategically placed equipment to service these specific areas first, knowing how desperately needed service is in those areas and from there they've built their businesses, expanded their equipment and service offerings. Now there's competition and good old American industrialism at work. See a problem, create a service and thereby a business to address the problem.
In reality nothing about Chairman Wheeler's proposal, per his statement in Boulder, does anything to increase any market segment other than government, by having consumers get service from "municipal providers".
Chairman Wheeler goes on to discuss what he refers to as "open Internet". He refers in vague terms to "paid prioritization, blocking, and throttling." As well as "last-mile tactics" which while these terms sound flashy he puts no substance behind what he means as certain "last-mile tactics", as Chairman Wheeler so glibly calls them, are necessary in delivering high quality service. Call quality when using VoIP for instance relies heavily on prioritization which takes place in the "last-mile".
Another point that is completely overlooked by Chairman Wheeler when he says that there is to be no prioritization or blocking of traffic and all traffic must be treated the same, what happens when there is DDoS attack? Or what about Spam Filtering? Once an ISP is required to treat all traffic the same, as soon as a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack starts and all those 15 million infected computers start attacking a single target, causing multiple 10-GigE connects to fill up so now no one can navigate the Internet there's nothing an ISP can do because they have to treat all traffic the same. In a "fair and open" Internet the traffic from the cyber attack is just as important as end user's web surfing.
I'm also sure the spammer would tell you that his email is just as important to make it to the recipient as Aunt Estelle's old family recipe, but as of right now all he can do is stomp his foot and say it's just not fair that that horrible ISP blocked it from getting to Debbie. But here comes Chairman Wheeler addressing the lack of fairness on the Internet and soon that spammer's emails will have to be treated as equals and have to be delivered to Debbie, who's email will now fill up with junk and malicious spam.
Chairman Wheeler also discusses new laws / regulations while glossing over what kind of bureaucracy it will take to make it happen: allowing content companies to file a complaint with the FCC allowing the Commission to investigate the ISP. While not clearly spelled out this has left the industry wondering what all will come down on ISPs with the FCC now regulating them? Paperwork? Required reporting? Specific Regulations? In short more bureaucracy.
Every business owner is aware of privacy concerns for their clients, most states, Nevada included, have laws on the books about what has to be done when a business discovers a client's private information has been accidentally disclosed, lost, or otherwise accessed. Certain industries currently have additional federal regulations on top of state regulations such as the medical industry's ePHI (electronic Protected Health Information) regulations. So when Chairman Wheeler said, "...it is so fundamentally important that we protect privacy." it jumps out as another opportunity for additional regulations similar to ePHI.
In the end what this debate boils down to is are you a Federalist who wants government involved in all aspects of your life and have no issues with purchasing your Internet connectivity from Washoe County rather than a local business or are you an Anti-Federalist who wants to see business stay in the hands of private enterprise and would rather pay John next door who owns an ISP for your Internet connectivity.