FCC Chair Hints He’ll Open the Can of Worms

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29 Responses

  1. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    First, one small comment before I get to my main point: Dynamic DNS is a thing now which is supported commonly by routers available for home. This allows you to associate a domain or subdomain with your local network and notify upstream DNS servers whenever your IP address is changed (by the upstream DHCP server, presumably). So while I agree that “no server” clauses will go away, I don’t think it follows that everyone gets a static IP address.

    The larger comment is that my reading of the bill proposed by Senator Thune is that it is inadequate to address issues that happened last year. In particular, according to the testimony of Level 3 (see, for instance this and other entries from their blog), Verizon deliberately failed to upgrade their service for all customers in a region in order to put more pressure on Netflix to engage in paid peering. Verizon tried to pass this off as someone else’s problem, and indeed has been fairly successful in this regard. Of course, the “someone else” in this case was Level 3, and they aren’t happy about it.

    In a marketplace where consumers 1) had many other options for broadband and 2) can correctly attribute bad internet service to their broadband provider, this would not require a regulator to intervene. I contend that neither (1) or (2) are true.

    What Verizon did can’t really be construed as “prioritization”, it seems to me. I think common carrier status for broadband would address this kind of behavior. Therefore, I do not support Thune’s bill. It is inadequate to the situation. Common carrier status is pretty well understood, I have long wondered why broadband didn’t have common carrier status, though I would not describe myself as an expert on it.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      Excellent comment.

      What are dynamic DNS propagation times running these days? I might as well have had a static IP address for the last several years — I held the same dynamically-assigned one from Comcast until I changed out my cable modem recently.

      Look, I also think internet access ought to be a regulated communications service. I thought so 20 years ago, but lost the internal argument so my company didn’t even try to make it so. Don’t know if Verizon’s behavior would be improper under the Thune bill; I think so, and complaints filed under the new regulatory authority the bill grants the FCC would at least make such behavior public; but you might be right. More importantly, though, the bill would put something in place within months. Reclassification is going to take years to iron out, since the courts are going to be heavily involved.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Once the world goes IPv6 (the day after controlled fusion is achieved), why not give everyone a static IP?Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        IIRC, IPv6 works out to allowing you to assign a static IP address to every separate square inch of the planet. It’s a sorta kinda big address space.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Lots more addresses than that — about 4.2e20 addresses per square inch of the Earth’s surface. Alternatively, every bacterium on the planet can be assigned 68 million addresses.

        OTOH, as we move to the Internet of Things (which was a really big deal at this year’s CES), there are a lot of my things that I don’t want to have a public address. Or at least don’t want that address to be reachable from the public internet.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        Hey, I was only off by twenty orders of magnitude. I knew the address space was ridiculous, I just forgot exactly HOW ridiculous.

        I think the reason for the slow adoption is simply that NAT works just fine for most people. I’ve got a private address space that can accommodate up to 256 devices and I use maybe ten of those between our phones, tablets, and entertainment devices. NAT isn’t explicitly a security measure but it helps and I have no desire to have all those devices exposed to the wild and woolly. If someone’s going to hack me they’re at least going to have to work at it a little and I’m not worth the effort.

        It’s really only servers that need a public static address.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        It’s really only servers that need a public static address.

        I don’t go that far, or at least, I have a broader definition of “server” than most people. There will be some devices in your home that you want remote access to — a DVR, for example, or a thermostat. But you want access to be limited, and you want reasonable security, and… Somewhere here I have a design patent with my name on it for an arrangement that did a reasonable job of those things.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Can’t you handle that worth port forwarding and the like?Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Can’t you handle that worth port forwarding and the like?

        To some extent, certainly. Things get bothersome if several devices all want to use port 80, and you have to remember which external ports map to which devices. You also have to depend on the individual devices’ security arrangements — not as big a problem now as it used to be, since devices are typically equipped with a lot more processing horsepower. The system in the patent allowed devices to register with a gateway device which would, among other things, allow a single point of contact for reaching all of your devices and provide robust security. All of the needed registration, code installation, etc, was done automatically.Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    Thanks for these posts. I’ve gotten a lot out of them.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “The correct answer to congestion in IP networks is always to provide more bandwidth,”

    This has been trivially easy since fiber optic has been replacing copper, and a moot point for a while after everything was way overbuilt in the Dot-com era (e.g. Global Crossing), but are we finally now reaching a point where ‘just provide more bandwidth’ becomes as vexing a question as ‘just build a bigger interstate’?Report

    • Avatar A Compromised Immune System says:

      Only if you don’t understand what’s going on. The USA has been lagging far behind many other countries considered “less developed”, due mostly to existing monopoly ISPs who prefer to price-gouge and engage in noncompete agreements for different geographical areas and who have failed to properly upgrade service for the vast majority of those who pay for their service.

      Verizon and Comcast have both been caught deliberately blockading traffic from Netflix in order to try to extort payments from the company, even after subscribers paid for a certain speed. It’s not a lack of bandwidth on their side or technical inability to upgrade, it’s a deliberate choice to interfere with service in violation of ethics and the contract with their customers.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:


        Seriously, we are SO far behind in bandwidth, it’s ridiculous. I’m not talking the rural boonies — I’m talking major cities and the suburbs of major cities. We pay FAR more for FAR less than, well, everyone else.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Not sure about “everyone else”. I always hear that cell phone and Internet prices in Canada higher than those in the US due to a highly oligopolistic market (you can buy from Telus, Bell, or Rogers, and that’s it, and they all have high prices and terrible customer service).Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        Australia’s also pretty crappy from what I know – OK, maybe it’s just the former colonies of the UK that were formed by mostly white people that suck at having fast Internet.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      I exaggerate, of course. Sometimes the answer is IP multicast (there’s a reason one-sixteenth of the entire IPv4 address space was set aside for multicast; I’d love to see one result of this rule making be a multicast requirement). Sometimes the answer is clever caching of popular content in locations where the pipes are already fat.

      That said, the research labs continue to set new records for bits/second on individual fibers. New fiber continues to be installed. New xDSL technologies push more and more bits/second on copper loops. Recently Comcast sent me a new cable modem gratis because if all the modems run the DOCSIS 3.0 protocol, they can cram a good many more bits onto the coax. The IEEE continues to issue new 802.11 specs that jam many more bits into the available RF spectrum. Google Fiber (slowly) builds overlay networks. There’s lots of room to expand the capacity of the pipes.Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    Thank you for the update. (I hope you’ll continue with these posts as this progresses, too.)

    Expect a hugeamount of difficulty in deciding what to do about legacy DSL over the phone company’s loops.

    Can you explain this more, Michael?

    /asking because I have DSL of courseReport

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      Local loop unbundling — providing alternate providers with access to the “last mile” distribution network — in the US has only happened on the telco copper pairs, and has changed in lots of ways over the years. Sometimes it’s been the physical copper, sometimes it’s been the xDSL frequencies only, sometimes it’s been the bitstream at the central office, sometimes it’s been mandatory, sometimes it’s not. If your DSL provider is not the local phone company, then you’re enjoying competition as a result of LLU. Will the Chairman’s new rule say that no-one has to unbundle? Will it say that no one is allowed to unbundle?

      There are many folks who claim that the reason that Europe has faster and cheaper internet access than the US is because the regulators there generally require LLU, and the resulting competition amongst ISPs requires them to deploy the latest xDSL technology and hold prices down in order to win customers.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Ha. No, I have DSL from the local phone company, and have a choice of that or cable.

        (I love my local phone company; began when a coffin manufacturer ran a phone line from his water-powered factory to the nearest train station, about 6 miles away. That first town, Woodstock, ME, was also the last town in the US to use the old crank phones. Now, they’ve moved into the secure facilities at an airforce base closed through brac, and they’ve installed broadband service to areas throughout my county, one of the poorest and most rural, and are moving on through other parts of the state; plus secure business stuff, using equipment at a military base closed through brac. Since finance happens here, there’s apparently some tax advantage for banks to do data processing in the state, there’s a big market for highly-secure business stuff; and our teensy-tiny phone company, that began at a water-powered mill that manufactured coffins, has grown to fill the needs.)Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I find it interesting to see how the regulatory mindset of those looking at the Internet has gone from “well, it’s like a phone” to “no, it’s more like cable TV” to “no, it’s really more like a phone but more than that it’s kind of it’s own thing.”Report

    • Avatar A Compromised Immune System says:

      It was easier for them to think of it as a phone when everyone was using a modem and dialing an AOL phone bank.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        I worked for a telco at the time, and lord, was dial-up data service a nightmare. The phone switches were designed and provisioned assuming certain traffic characteristics. Peak-hour traffic was assumed to be, per line, three call attempts, three-minute average call duration. Data calls with hours-long holding times were killers. Bell Labs was looking at what eventually turned into DSL by about 1981 to try to shift data service off of the voice switches.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      You’re confusing access and content. First it was clearly access — you dialed a connection to your ISP, or to one of several if you had multiple accounts. Then came always-on [1] and you had a dedicated pipe into your ISP. At that point, the industry was in a “content is king” mode of thought, and the FCC decided that the service should be regulated that way. After 20-odd years, everyone has figured out what some of us thought was obvious from the beginning, that people would pay for access alone because there was so much free content. And here we are, trying to undo a 20-year-old mistake.

      [1] USWest, the only company that was both a Baby Bell in its own region and a cable operator outside that region, had ethnographers on staff that did several studies of how people were affected by cable modem service. The results were summarized in some of the early brochures: “High speed is why you try it. Always-on is why you move the computer out of the back room into the kitchen.”Report

  6. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    No last mile unbundling.

    IMHO, every major issue we have in this space can be summed up in two words, “vertical integration.” That and “natural monopoly” are precisely why everyone hates their cable company and can’t do a damn thing about it.

    Except under unusual and temporary circumstances any company supplying a service via a fixed distributed infrastructure is going to end up as a monopoly. The only exception may be a very customer-dense environment like an inner city.

    Any company that is simultaneously welling you access and content is going to have incentives to screw with the competition in the content space. Comcast and their ilk despise that Netflix, Hulu, and Skype even exist and have zero reasons to deal with them in a neutral fashion.

    So if I understand what you mean by no unbundling the last mile we’re doomed to forever fighting the same monopolistic/oligopolistic issues. World without end, amen.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Comcast competes with Verizon’s fiber network on cable…
      (since I don’t do cable, I can’t tell you about rates).Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        “competes” isn’t really accurate. Here’s a FIOS map.


        Additional note: Years ago I checked to see if FIOS was avail at my address. According to the Verizon map, it was when I put in my zip code. When I put in my actual address, it wasn’t as I was too far from the closes node.

        Comcast really has very little competition in most of the state where I live. You want to address the cost of internet service, have the Public Utility commission actual have competing vendors.Report