Frustrated over the number of Internet providers that are available to you? If so, you’re like many who are limited to just a handful of broadband companies. But now President Obama wants to change that, arguing that choice and competition are lacking in the U.S. broadband market. On Wednesday, Obama will unveil a series of measures aimed at making high-speed Web connections cheaper and more widely available to millions of Americans. The announcement will focus chiefly on efforts by cities to build their own alternatives to major Internet providers such as Comcast, Verizon or AT&T — a public option for Internet access, you could say.
In a plan released today, Obama said, “The time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance [as the traditional telephone system] and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act—while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone—not just one or two companies.”
Reclassification of broadband service is almost certain to bring lawsuits from the telecommunications industry.
Network neutrality came from the telephone business. With electronic phone switching (analog, not digital) it was possible to give phone company customers who were willing to pay more priority access to trunk lines, avoiding the dreaded “all circuits are busy, please try your call again later.” Alas, some folks almost never got a circuit, so the FCC put a halt to that practice by mandating what it called “network neutrality” – first-come, first-served access to the voice network. When the commercial Internet came along, network neutrality was extended to digital data services, lately over the objection of telcos and big ISPs like Comcast, and the FCC is now about to expand those rules a bit more, which was in this week’s news. But to give network neutrality the proper context, we really should go back to that original analog voice example, because there are more details there worth telling.
Consider this: A single fiber-optic strand the diameter of a human hair can carry 101.7 terabits of data per second, enough to support nearly every Netflix subscriber watching content in HD at the same time. And while technology has improved and capacity has increased, costs have continued to decline. A few more shelves of equipment might be needed in the buildings that house interconnection points, but broadband itself is as limitless as its uses.
We’ll never realize broadband’s potential if large ISPs erect a pay-to-play system that charges both the sender and receiver for the same content. That’s why we at Netflix are so vocal about the need for strong net neutrality, which for us means ISPs should enable equal access to content without favoring, impeding, or charging particular content providers. Those practices would stunt innovation and competition and hold back the broader development of the Internet and the economic benefits it brings.
This is the reason we have opposed Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Comcast has already shown the ability to use its market position to require access fees, as evidenced by the Netflix congestion that cleared up as soon as we reached an agreement with them. A combined company that controls over half of US residential Internet connections would have even greater incentive to wield this power.
Fortunately, Verizon and Netflix have found a way to avoid the congestion problems that Level 3 is creating by its refusal to find “alternative commercial terms.” We are working diligently on directly connecting Netflix content servers into Verizon’s network so that we both can keep the interests of our mutual customers paramount.
Watch the video to feel the full pain. What you’ll see is that on Fios it streams at 375 kbps at the fastest. The experience sucks. It takes an eternity to buffer.
Then I connect to a VPN (in this case VyprVPN) and I quickly get up to full speed at 3000 kbps (the max on Netflix), about 10x the speed I was getting connecting directly via Verizon.
Verizon has confirmed that everything between that router in their network and their subscribers is uncongested – in fact has plenty of capacity sitting there waiting to be used. Above, I confirmed exactly the same thing for the Level 3 network. So in fact, we could fix this congestion in about five minutes simply by connecting up more 10Gbps ports on those routers. Simple. Something we’ve been asking Verizon to do for many, many months, and something other providers regularly do in similar circumstances. But Verizon has refused. So Verizon, not Level 3 or Netflix, causes the congestion. Why is that? Maybe they can’t afford a new port card because they’ve run out – even though these cards are very cheap, just a few thousand dollars for each 10 Gbps card which could support 5,000 streams or more. If that’s the case, we’ll buy one for them. Maybe they can’t afford the small piece of cable between our two ports. If that’s the case, we’ll provide it. Heck, we’ll even install it.
Throughout the country, companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and Verizon have signed agreements with cities that prohibit local governments from becoming internet service providers and prohibit municipalities from selling or leasing their fiber to local startups who would compete with these huge corporations.
The FCC classifies broadband (such as FiOS) as an information service under Title I of the Communications Act, resulting in less strict rules than the ones applied to common carrier services (such as the traditional phone system) under Title II. But since both services are delivered over the same wire, Verizon FiOS is able to reap the benefits of utility regulation without the downsides.
“The companies’ affiliates have acted together and have taken control of the customer-funded wires and networks, which are Title II, in multiple ways that allow the company to control both the end-user connection—speed, access, and use of the Internet—as well as the competitor side of attaching to the wire and delivering services to the end users,” Kushnick wrote in an e-mail. “We will be asking for the FCC to open the networks to all forms of competition because customers paid for it and they are Title II, and because the affiliate companies have created a bottleneck that controls the wires and blocks competitors.”
Bringing fiber all the way to your home is only one piece of the puzzle. We also partner with content providers (like YouTube, Netflix, and Akamai) to make the rest of your video’s journey shorter and faster. (This doesn’t involve any deals to prioritize their video ‘packets’ over others or otherwise discriminate among Internet traffic — we don’t do that.)
via Google Fiber Blog.
If it bothers you that I’m doing this, I want to point out that everyone is going to be doing crap like this after the FCC rips apart Net Neutrality. It’s time for the web to organize and stand up against these thugs before they ruin everything that the web stands for.