Good Summary Of The FCC's Open Internet Rules

Barbara van Schewick, Director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, and a leading academic voice in the Net Neutrality debate, has a good blog post about the FCC's adoption of Open Internet Rules last week. I've been traveling and out of the country since the FCC adopted these rules and have been meaning to get updated on what was finally adopted. I'm pleased to see that the final order was worded in a way that deals with some of our concerns.

In particular;

– Non discrimination: This is the key net neutrality provision for entrepreneurs and investors in internet based businesses. We need protection that those who control the last mile of internet access will not discriminate against certain services and favor others. We believe the ideal approach is an application agnostic standard. In the words of Commissioner Copps:

“In discussing the “no unreasonable discrimination” standard, we put particular emphasis on keeping control in the hands of users and preserving an application-blind network—a key part of making the Internet the innovative platform it is today.”

– Access fees: We believe that Internet access providers charging application providers for access to their customers should be prohibited. The order comes very close to doing so:

The text of the order clearly prohibits network providers from charging application and content providers for access to the network providers’ Internet service customers

However, it does provide the possibility of "paid prioritization" with a very high hurdle.

as a general matter,” arrangements of this kind [paid prioritization] are “unlikely” to be considered reasonable

– Wireless: We believe that the Open Internet Rules should be applied to both wireline and wireless networks. That didn't happen leading many to interpret it as the end of net neutrality for wireless networks. I am optimistic that the FCC will remain vigilant regarding open wireless networks and may push for wireless net neutrality in the future.

We emphasize that our decision to proceed incrementally with respect to mobile broadband at this time should not suggest that we implicitly approve of any provider behavior that runs counter to general open Internet principles.

Nothing is perfect that comes out of a political process and when you add in a negotiation between carriers and service providers, it is amazing we got anything of value. I think Chairman Genachowski, who is a friend of mine, did a terrific job on this and we thank him and his staff at the FCC for pushing these rules forward in a very difficult political climate.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Austin Clements

    After reading all the reports about how the most common internet access medium in 2011 will be a mobile device, I find it interesting that wireless is not at the forefront of this debate.I’m excited about the progress made thus far, but it’s always interesting to hear the opponents take. Here’s Farber, one of the longest standing critics I know of:

    1. fredwilson

      A compromise everyone hates may be a good thing


        That is kind of the definition of a compromise in my opinion. A solution that makes nobody happy.

      2. vruz

        they moved the goalposts, so instead of aiming for net neutrality, google and the fcc ended up aiming for quite a lot less.I’m pretty certain the operators are not hating their mobile web advantage at all.they didn’t make much with apps before anyway, it’s a net win for them.

  2. ShanaC

    I just don’t want to sit through this again when it comes to wireless. I think we have a decent idea of what people are doing with their phones thanks to the linkes of Flurry as well as the big internet media analytics company (a hit is a hit, and someone like Comscore or Compete will pick that data up)I do think you’re right about compromise and it being a painful process….but this was a situation that called for compromise….I also really think that the real issue that everyone is ignoring is “the Great Privacy debate” We spent too much time arguing about paid prioritization not realizing that there are business reasons by everyone to keep things as neutral as possible -with the privacy debate, you get weird dependencies and get people who may not be so concerned with the business side (for reasons of social equity)

  3. Dan Cornish

    The danger with the FCC regulating the internet is not the current set of commissioners, but who comes next. The next set can start to incrementally build rules which favor the politically connected. Slowly but surely barriers will be built. The only way this can work is that the FCC should be barred from making any additional rules. So if everyone is currently unhappy, then it should stay this way for the next 10 – 20 years. But as we all know, tool makers love to make tools and rule makers never stop making rules.

  4. kidmercury

    a few things i’d like to point out:1. the FCC’s ability to be involved in this area is going to get challenged by the ISPs and others who don’t like the FCC. courts have already ruled this is not the FCC’s turf, so let’s see if their mandate stands. those who support disregarding due process when convenient are both (1) anarchists and (2) naive.2. as is customary, the government handout crowd is all about asking for the handout, but is not about doing any of the work to ensure government is responsible. they won’t talk about the history of FCC censorship and its role in creating a monopolized media. obviously they are too afraid to go big time and talk about 9/11. oh well. hey, maybe betting on fear and ignorance will be a good idea this time. or maybe their refusal to talk about regulatory problems and make efforts at dealing with them only perpetuates problems and does things like ruin the global economy, while making constructive uses of government difficult if not impossible.3. i hope you guys start thinking about the governance layer. i hope brad will do some more blog posts about it, me and him seem to be the only people cool enough to talk about it. at the very least, i think the regulatory framework that maximizes economic value for the governance layer will be different than it is for the application layer (just as the ideal framework for the infrastructure layer is different than the application layer). i already have my vision which i shove in everyone’s face, i hope we can get other opinions and commentary about it, as taking action will be important in creating value for all.

    1. gzino

      kidmercury: i think #3 is a critical point – pls elaborate on your definition of “governance layer” so we can better understand.

      1. kidmercury

        here is a comment i left on a previous blog entry of fred’s (… where we talked about the governance layer:IMHO what comes after the app layer is “the governance layer,” or the human layer, the trust layer….whatever you want to call it, something like that. this is the layer in which value shifts from the apps to platform governance. from the perspective of clay christensen logic i expect apps will be commoditized and value will shift to non-technological things: blog stars, sociologists, artists…..that type of stuff. the skills needed to build a civilization. the governance layer will enable us to build the world beyond the nation state, just as the nation state is collapsing. as for when this trend really kicks off….well i think there will be increasingly be opportunities as we approach 2012……it’s the layer that saves the world! lolmy views are likely to be controversial and fringe, though i think the first paragraph of the comment i copied is likely to have wider appeal, and to be more in line with textbook business strategy.i elaborated my thoughts on the governance layer on my own blog here: http://www.kidmercuryblog.c…to summarize, i think we will see the rise of tightly integrated networks (like apple) that adhere to data portability standards. imagine if apple had rivals, i.e. orange computing, pear computing, watermelon computing, etc — and they all had the same basic philosophy of creating tightly integrated networks. and then they agreed to data portability terms so that users were not locked in and used as pawns in competitive battles between platforms. sort of like platforms agreeing to share the pie. a bit like how sports leagues work. i think such a framework would reconcile the open vs closed debate and advance both least that is my vision of the governance layer, which of course may or may not be valid. from this perspective, the philosophy of net neutrality hinders the creation of tightly integrated networks, and thus i would argue is not the value maximizing any event, i think it may be worth considering what is beyond the application layer (if anything), and what is the appropriate framework for that, as IMHO the emergence of a second bubble in the application layer signals it is time to move on, and that we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel to extract value here — there are better gold mines elsewhere (the governance layer).

  5. Harry DeMott

    On the whole I do believe that the venture community made out okay in this round. The big incumbents will likely have to abide by these rules for the most part – although I could see a Google or someone like it end up getting prioritized access through a more traditional cable play – essentially taking over a 6 Mhz swath of the cable spectrum replacing a traditional television channel with a direct pipe to all things Google. Would require some software engineering on the part of the cable modem guys – but nothing too complex.The elephant in the room is still the last mile. While everything can be completely application neutral, it doesn’t mean that ISP’s won’t be able to charge based on the amount of data being sent over their pipes. Thus, data intensive applications will certainly be harder to build in the future – as their costs for renting that last mile will continue to increase.

    1. fredwilson

      they will have to charge the users not the applications providers


      I am personally in favor of owning the last mile myself.

  6. Kelley Boyd @msksboyd

    Years ago when I was innovating telephony and construction via Digital Lifestyles, Inc. a large part of the value add of the platform I developed was that by installing my infrastructure a builder would automagically comply with the guidelines set fort by the FCC. Of course, guidelines are different from building codes; though even then, there was a state adoption of the federal guidelines into the residential building code. No matter, the point of this comment is that the building community had long known there is no FCC “police” thus there was not real consequence for non-compliance.As for paid prioritization, there have long been features in premise/perimeter level equipment that allow for bandwidth prioritization for good reason. If my bandwidth keeps getting choked by unsolicited services, I want the option to easily prioritize my bandwidth utilization based upon the services that are important to me.Further, long term I would like for ISP’s to integrate some sort of front end selection options that allows for REALLY EASY webfiltering that allows you to exclude access to sites that a family needs to limit (for whatever reason). I know, I know, I know, I am not talking about for people like me. I am talking about for people that do not know there is an OSI model, or port blocking or how the internet/web works at all.But as long as there is no “police”, it won’t really matter what the FCC says, the burden will be on the organizations to find the oppression of their application, report and then wait out any kind of resolution. I guess that will be ok if you are hooked up or have billions at your disposal. But if you are not, in that amount of time they can be forced to close and there will likely be no reparation that could make those startups whole.

  7. matthughes

    Real net neutrality would not involve the FCC.Three guys in a room that no one has ever heard of making this decision is a bad thing. And as other readers have pointed out, what happens when the next three guys no one has ever heard of ‘get into power’ and start wielding their new-found power…These are layers that we don’t need.Where is the very simple (legal) provision for competition amongst the providers? Was that even addressed? Isn’t that the only real issue to be dealt with here?

  8. William Carleton

    Fred, with respect to mobile broadband, I hope you are right. Certainly there is reassuring language in the broader, 100+ page “Report and Order” that states that the FCC will be watching and may apply the non-discrimination and broader no-blocking rules to wireless. That said, if you compare and contrast the wireline open internet rules against the abbreviated rules of wireless, you get the following implications:*okay to block lawful content (other than lawful websites);*okay to block applications (other than competitive voice and video telephony apps; but you have free reign to curate your own app store );*okay to block services;*okay to block non-harmful devices; and*okay to unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.Inspired by you, your partner Brad and others, I’ve been following the issue and trying to “close read” what is and isn’t said. At least with regard to wireless, the FCC open internet rules look very much like they follow the framework Google and Verizon jointly proposed earlier this year. As it so happens I posted specifically on the rules and wireless broadband this morning,…, if you’re interested in how I derived the above list.

    1. Sanford Dickert

      Interestingly, a conversation with someone very close at the FCC explained this difference. The fact is – with three to six different wireless carriers in the market today, discrimination or performance degregation could potentially be a choice for users to depart from the particular carrier causing such problems and move to one that is not discrimination.In the wired-line case – it is far to frequent that the connection is a monopoly for data services and switching to another provider is not particularly easy. But with number portability and offerings in most markets for wireless, the FCC’s justification is that if the providers do things that upset the consumers – they will leave.i am curious to see how this works out.

  9. MrGamma

    The paid prioritization sounds interesting. Some people have no idea how much a p2p server network can eat up traffic in the background. Maybe the way around is for ISPs to identify traffic and allow consumers to discriminate against it.I can’t for the life of me see how the network would be application blind though. Maybe if an application refers to a brand rather than a protocol or traffic contents.I would rather the tools for discrimination be in the hands of the provider and consumer, and not monitored by the FCC.

    1. Sanford Dickert

      I can tell you that today, the p2p traffic is on the order of 40% of bandwidth usage. Considering that it is a constant stream of traffic across the network that the carrier has to address can be a great challenge when the spikes occur.The goal for the FCC is to ensure that the freedoms we appreciate in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are upheld – and by focusing on ensuring that the providers can maintain their business while also ensuring our freedoms – I welcome the FCC’s efforts.

  10. vruz

    I have issues with calling this ‘Net Neutrality’ and a ‘terrific job’.A terrific job would have been a lower hurdle on prioritisation, and an actually neutral approach to wireless. If it’s not pro-neutrality, it’s not neutral, it’s de facto corporate control.I understand why in your position you have to be measured, but I can afford to set the record straight.This result is anything but balanced or neutral, it’s detrimental to internet startups on the new wireless frontier, and it’s BigCo getting a nod from the Obama administration.

  11. Sanford Dickert

    Fred -I have been working on a post on my thoughts on the Net Neutrality debate – especially since I have had to play on all sides of this debate (from the telco POV, the content provider POV and the user POV) in various situations.What makes me unhappy is the way the discussion of wired versus wireless is being addressed. Both situations have the companies with the physical plant established (e.g. last mile copper/fiber vs. wireless antenna) and it becomes even more blurred when you recognize that the wired network is often the backhaul for the wireless one (especially when you place Wifi or femtocells in the equation).When I worked as the VP of IP Products for the largest backhaul provider in Europe, we were faced with establishing our business model – and justifying our company’s investment. In 2001, when connections were not as plentiful, wireless was just beginning to think 3G, firewalls were only just able to handle rules for ports and corporations were deciding between a ADSL and a T1 connection – the idea of management at the application layer was a benefit to corporations trying to manage their own connections to the ‘net.Now, companies could guarantee quality-of-service (QOS) for particular applications and users within the business (read: CEOs and engineers) without suffering from net-centric performance lag and NOT have to purchase another expensive connection. And, as the owner of the P&L of the network, I appreciated the control over the traffic because I could shape the traffic and better manage the performance of business.Granted – this business model was based on the concept of scarcity (the pipes could handle only so much bandwidth) and service agreements (what a telco is a provider of), but you might suggest that today, things are different. I disagree. Yes, a business can now connect a fiber to their office router and run GigE over the wavelength(s), but when everyone is doing this, how do the carrier(s) handle it without their performance suffering? Do what my friend David Isenberg suggests – just add more routers? The problem is all about investment in the physical plant and the service guarantees – and we already know how long it takes to build physical plant on our telco networks (just take a look at AT&T’s wireless network).From this POV, I can see the argument for application traffic shaping / rule management. But I recognize the concern of “is “where does the line form”? When does censorship take hold? Again, I got involved in a situation where a prominent NYC blogger got her blog tagged in google’s index as a “mature” site, and her traffic dropped precipitously – so much so that she lost over 2/3rds of her revenue. Fortunately, I knew someone in the Indexing Group at google and was able to solve it with a quick phone call – but that accidental form of censorship brought the real life concerns over a lack of net neutrality rules issues into sharp relief.We are suffering from a presumed model of a public service like water, power, highways and such. I think we need to understand that the model we are really discussing is the railroad/subway model – investors had to build out the physical plant and try to make a profit off the business. As the service became a standard (both in terms of the physical systems and the services offered) the businesses either became specialized (e.g., Amtrak, shipping services) or made into public services (e.g., the NYC subway / MTA). I am assuming, based on our current political climate, that net neutrality will have to go the public/private route – where government will ensure the freedoms that support the majority of business needs (read: no censorship) but the private industry will be able to offer different levels of QOS simply because they need to for their long term business model.

  12. JeromePineau

    This is outright intellectual nonsense! Since when has the FCC regulating _anything_ been good news?? I suppose the globalization of ICANN is also something to celebrate then?Geesh.

  13. birbalbarbosa

    Therefore, data-intensive applications will certainly be more difficult to build in the future – that their rental costs continue to rise last mile.mahjong

  14. birbalbarbosa

    I knew someone in the group of Indexing Service on google and I could solve with a quick phone conversation – but the random censorship raised real concerns of the lack of rules of net neutrality in relief .Motorcycle Parts