Stevens Bill IV –The Bad Stuff (Network Neutrality)

Finally, we get to this week’s big enchilada, Network Neutrality (or “NN,” as we policy wonks like to call it when we type it over and over and over again).

Many have opposed the Communications Enhancement Act of 2006 (COPE) because it would limit FCC authority to prevent abuses of market power by the few broadband ISPs in control of the “last mile”. Well, the Stevens Bill would not just limit FCC authority, it would eliminate it altogether. A dream for the telcos, cable cos and my opposite numbers at Progress and Freedom Foundation, a nightmare for the rest of us.

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Stevens Bill III– The Bad Stuff (Munibroadband)

The Stevens Bill contains a section called “Municipal Broadband” (Title V) and calls itself the “Community Broadband Act of 2006.” Given that that McCain and Lautenberg introduced a pro-munibroadband bill in 2005 called “The Community Boradband Act of 2005,” and that the House overwhelmingly adopted language identical to the McCain-Lautenberg language in COPE, you might think that I would put Title V in the “Good Parts” section.

GOTCHA! That clever Senator Stevens, who apparently has confused the definition of “competition” and “cartel” (Hey, they both begin with “C”! He’s old! Give the man a break!), has tricked you! Like predators in nature that camoflage themselves to look like pretty flowers before they SPRING UPON THEIR HELPLESS PREY AND DEVOUR THEM, The Stevens “Community Broadband Act” will allow local governments to give gobs of money to private companies, but will not allow local governments to do something as outrageous as compete with private companies.

Impressed? Amazed? Astounded? Well see below . . . .

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Stevens Bill Part II — The Bad Stuff (Broadcast Flag).

Like the thin cows of Pharoh’s dream devouring the fat cows, the bad parts of the Stevens Bill overwhelm the good parts. (My, I’m feeling biblical today. Perhaps because this legislation feels like such a prelude to Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.)

Leaving aside the video franchising provision, which I leave to my friends at Free Press, Saveaccess.org, and Alliance for Community Media, I find the damage the Stevens Bill would do to municipal broadband and network neutrality, combined with the broadcast flag mandates, make this bill a “must kill” in its current form.

Again, because there is just so much bad stuff here, I need to break it up into different chunks. First up, just when you thought you could buy a new TV in peace — THE RETURN OF THE BROADCAST FLAG!

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Stevens Bill Analysis Part I — The Good Parts (Unlicensed Spectrum and Program Access)

Senator Stevens (R-AK), Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, has introduced a massive telecom bill. The ten sections of the Communications, Consumer Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006 (helpfully broken down into separately named acts) covers a variety of material from subsidies for troops calling home to Return of the Broadcast Flag. As a consequence, I’ve broken up my analysis into a bunch of different postings.

Below, I talk about the two good things in the Stevens Bill, “The Wireless Innovation (WIN) Act of 2006,” (Title VI of the stevens Bill) and the “Sports Freedom Act of 2006” (Title IV Subtitle A).

In Part II, I will hit the really awful stuff on municipal broadband, network neutrality and broadcast flag.

This skips a bunch on local franchising, PEG, universal service, interoperability of emergency equipment, telephone rates for military personnel deployed abroad. I may come back to these if I can, but other folks, such as Saveaccess.org are doing a good job covering these issues and I also need to do my day job.

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ALERT ON Tomorrow's Mark Up of Internet Bill (COPE)

Most folks reading this will have heard about the Communications Opportunity and Enhancements Act of 2006, aka COPE. I shall blog more thoroughly on this presently. For now, I want to focus on a narrow issue that may get lost in the shuffle: the efforts of Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) to accomplish for his telco masters what AT&T could not accomplish in his home state — killing muni broadband.

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This week's Candorville a MUST READ

Candorville started in the Washington Post last year, and it is an amazingly funny progessive comic strip. This week (April 3) features Bell mergers, Bellsouth’s disgraceful efforts to shut down the New Orleans muni wireless network, Bellsouth’s efforts to get the LA legislature to pass antimuni bills, and today why we need network neutrality.

Must send fan letter to Darrin Bell. He can say in four panels what it took me a whole essay to say.

Stay tuned . . . .

What the $#@! is the “Public” Internet

So here I am, at one of these DC discussion fests between “stakeholders” on “network neutrality.” Net neutrality is what we talk about post Brand X . It means the provider can’t mess with the packets (other than to screen malware or engage in network management). Needless to say, the incumbent wireline providers are not happy with this thought, while all the time proclaiming they will never, ever mess with content.

So what incumbents float instead is the concept of providing “enhanced service” to those with content who will pay extra to be given “priority” to the broadband provider’s subscribers. (“Hey, nice packets you got there. Be a shame if anything . . . happened to them on the way to the customer. But good news. We’re here to offer you a ‘premium’ service that gaurantees you speedy delivery! I suppose I shouldn’t mention this, but your competitor has already signed up . . .”)

This is being justified, in part, as offering premium service on the “private internet” as opposed to the “public interent.”

What the #$@! is a “public internet?” Unless there is some remnant of the NSF backbone out there, or we’re talking about the government funded root servers, there is no such thing as a “public” internet and never was. “The Internet” (back when everyone always used to capitalize it) is a “network of networks” which, since the mid-1990s, have been private networks.

So why are wireline incumbents pushing the “public internet” meme? See below . . .

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DSL Item Released — coulda been worse

After pushing the FCC’s open meeting off for a day and then delaying another hour and half to reach a compromise, Martin got his DSL reclassification order by a uninamous Commission. Instead of the complete deregulation proposed by Powell, the Commission will take steps to protect “network neutrality” and will take steps to protect various other “social” policies (including, unfortunately for us civil libertarian folks, the ability of the FBI to read your email).

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