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Free Press Sues FCC Over Discrepancy In Net Neutrality Rules 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-me-interwebs-or-give-me-death dept.
hypnosec writes "The Free Press has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission, challenging the net neutrality rules laid out by the regulator. The lawsuit (PDF), which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, claims the rules are different for fixed line and mobile wireless broadband. According to the rules, mobile wireless carriers are not allowed to block voice and other applications that compete with their own services, but other than that, they are free do to what they want."
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Free Press Sues FCC Over Discrepancy In Net Neutrality Rules

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  • by qbast (1265706) on Friday September 30, 2011 @09:17AM (#37566744)
    So the only thing they are not allowed is to block competing services? What about detecting them (by packet inspection) and charging premium rates?
    • by click2005 (921437) *

      Or just lower the QoS... routing data over satellite links instead of terrestrial ones, inserting lag or 'losing' packets.

      There are many ways to make a service unusable without blocking it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If you sell a tiered service, as cell network operators do, it's important to make sure your lower-cost tiers suck. If you provide those customers with too good a service, you'll remove the incentive to upgrade so something more expensive.

      • Or just lower the QoS... routing data over satellite links instead of terrestrial ones, inserting lag or 'losing' packets.

        There are many ways to make a service unusable without blocking it.

        Making the service unusable is blocking it, according to the Report & Order, at para. 66:

        We make clear that the no-blocking rule bars broadband providers from impairing or degrading particular content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices so as to render them effectively unusable (subject to reasonable netwo

    • Re:Not a problem (Score:5, Interesting)

      by erroneus (253617) on Friday September 30, 2011 @09:36AM (#37566964) Homepage

      No, instead, they raise rates for everything else and discount their own. That's the "fair" way to do it.

      It reminds me of something a particular apartment management company has been doing ( these bastards [apartmentratings.com] ). The law says they cannot charge ridiculous late fees to people and has limited what they can charge for various things. But, the law did not prevent them from offering huge discounts for paying rent "on time" and so that's what they did. But now it's worse than it was before! How? Well, first is the very large effective late fee (which is the loss of $100+ discount + the normal late fee) but then here's the fun part -- these 'discounts' accumulate and they can be made to blow up on you like a giant usurious bomb! So, let's say you need to move because your job is relocating you. Well, you can usually give the customary 30 days notice, but they don't subscribe to that policy... they are more like 60 to 90 day notice is required! And then they want to charge you lease breaking fees which is equal to the remainder of the lease + all discounts previously applied or something like that.

      Apartment dwellers almost never have enough money to get legal representation and people without money don't have the ear of the government either. So these abuses will continue until something reaches a breaking point.

      Seems I went off topic? Well kinda -- the practice of "raising prices + applying discounts" would likely be the approach the wireless carriers would take... you know, just like "friends and family" plans they use to get entire groups of people to move to their service who then become reluctant to change to other services because all of their friends and family are on the one service.

      Gotta love the clever ways they use and abuse their customers...

      • And I thought my landlords were terrible because they've never fixed the pool and the supers pay their favourite tenants crap money to do the cleaning for them... Those guys sound like utter assholes. Got to love the 5.0 reviews that were blatantly written by staff.
      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Making the usual price include "discounts" and then charging back those discounts on early termination is a bastardy thing to do. However...

        A lease is a lease. If you terminate early having to pay out the remainder of the term is pretty standard. So if there' this "giant usurious bomb" you just keep the lease and pay it each month while not living there, no bomb goes off.

        Surely the real estate agent you got to read it pointed out this ridiculous term and advised you not to sign it?

      • by zifn4b (1040588)

        Just because they are using a sneaky way to get around a law or regulation doesn't mean that you can't hire an attorney to file a petition to bring it to a court's attention. A judge may decide that what they are doing is logically equivalent to disobeying the law and render a judgment against them anyway. It comes down to having the money for the legal representation.

        You may be able to get an attorney to take your case with a low retainer if they feel strongly that you would win the case and be awarded s

        • by erroneus (253617)

          Or I could just leave... which I did.

          That said, I did try to take action and I did speak to an attorney and got similar advice -- get a petition together. LOTS of people refused to sign the petition and some later requested to be removed from it. There were and are a lot of people living there that shouldn't be for "various reasons." I relocated for my job before I could see justice through.

          As for the high lease-breaking fee? Well, that matter hasn't really been addressed by me... last I heard, a letter

    • by Spazmania (174582)

      Wireless is a competitive market so carriers are permitted to do what they want with the presumption that if the customer doesn't like it they'll go to another vendor.

      Wired broadband typically suffers from a monopoly or duopoly. There typically isn't a lot of choice available to the consumer, so there are strong restrictions on what the vendor is permitted to do.

      • by Dyinobal (1427207)
        Competitive market? ha not in the USA, we got AT&T Verizon and T-mobile and Sprint.
      • Re:Not a problem (Score:5, Insightful)

        by compro01 (777531) on Friday September 30, 2011 @09:57AM (#37567188)

        Wireless is a competitive market so carriers are permitted to do what they want with the presumption that if the customer doesn't like it they'll go to another vendor.

        Yep, locked phones, multi-year contracts with punitive termination fees, incompatible networks, rampant collusion in pricing and services. Real vicious competition there.

        • by dargaud (518470)

          Yep, locked phones, multi-year contracts with punitive termination fees, incompatible networks, rampant collusion in pricing and services. Real vicious competition there.

          I don't know in the US, but here in France they also have a very well shared list of 'bad customers'. Say you refuse to pay a 4000$ bill because you forgot to turn off data roaming when you were on vacation in some other country. Then no other carrier will sell you another contract. How do you spell 'collusion' in french ?

        • by tsotha (720379)
          Collusion? Do you have anything to back that up, or do you just know?
      • Wireless is a competitive market so carriers are permitted to do what they want with the presumption that if the customer doesn't like it they'll go to another vendor.

        This is false in three ways:

        First, the Open Internet Report and Order distinguishes between fixed and mobile broadband, not wireless and wireline; fixed includes many wireless services.

        Second, mobile broadband providers are not "permitted to do what they want", there are several restrictions placed on them (there is a transparency rule, and an

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      no no no.

      THEY DO IT LIKE THIS!!: they sell you a data package with some ridiculous limit.

      THEN, they introduce their own garden apps which bypass that limit(use different ap settings, or route just real 'voice' to voip or whatever like that).

      this is actually the old "good" way how they have been behaving since forever, it's the normal playbook for them since wap days.

      no need to throttle competing services as you'll be billed to moon for going over the data limit by using them. this is how operators saw th

    • So the only thing they are not allowed is to block competing services? What about detecting them (by packet inspection) and charging premium rates?

      This appears to be allowed, although the transparency rule requires them to disclose exactly what they are doing in this regard and why.

  • Well looking at who had something to gain over the wireless rules, it's no wonder that they got a pretty free reign to do whatever they please over that spectrum. Google's stance in it may have had something to do with their push for Android, but I really don't get why they sided with VZW on it. No neutrality towards all content is not neutrality at all.
  • by webheaded (997188) on Friday September 30, 2011 @09:26AM (#37566842) Homepage
    The FCC needs to grow some balls. I can't believe they put these rules through and harped about needing an open internet and then allowed the wireless providers to do whatever the hell they want. What PRECISELY will hurt your "new" wireless networks so much by not being able to block whatever you want? Precisely what? Bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. I'm pretty sure the companies making 100's of millions of dollars like Verizon and AT&T are quite fine having to deal with the new rules. That any wireless company would claim their networks are new and just barely growing is absurd. That they would use that as an excuse to not have net neutrality is insane. I cannot understand why the FCC people would even give a shit unless they are in someone's pocket. Honestly, what a load of horseshit.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hate to point this out, but the FCC is a *government* entity. Ergo, they are in someone's pocket. Our entire government is a wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporations doing business in the US. It's no longer 'Of the people, by the people, for the people'. It is 'Of the corporations, by the corporations, fuck the people'.

    • Business is built (and grows) from innovation on top of infrastructure.

      This is the infrastructure part - by allowing companies to ration the resources and block new business models as they see fit, it allows them to put the brakes on growth.

      This then reserves the "growth" for the carrier if, at some future time, they should decide to add new business models.

      For a concrete example: by making the barrier to entry for streaming video very high it becomes impossible to start a streaming video company. The carri

    • The FCC needs to grow some balls. I can't believe they put these rules through and harped about needing an open internet and then allowed the wireless providers to do whatever the hell they want.

      They didn't.

      First, the rules don't distinguish between wireline and wireless, they distinguish between fixed and mobile, which isn't the same thing. (See, e.g., 47 CFR Sec. 8.11(b), as added by the Report and Order, "Fixed broadband Internet access service. A broadband Internet access service that serves end users

      • by webheaded (997188)
        Can Verizon still block my access to getting on IRC networks without me having to mess around with a bunch of different servers? I can't use the main Rizon server...I had to go find a specific one to log on to because half the ones I tried wouldn't work. If the answer is anything other than no, this argument doesn't matter. If someone is trying to tell me I can use AIM, GTalk, MSN, and Yahoo but not log onto IRC, I'd LOVE to hear why. It's pretty much accepted on most forums that Verizon is blocking for
        • Can Verizon still block my access to getting on IRC networks without me having to mess around with a bunch of different servers?

          Insofar as IRC is neither a website nor a competing voice or video application, Verizon (when acting as a mobile broadband provider; they also provide fixed services) could block it, though under the transparency rules they would have to disclose details about how and what they were blocking that would take much of the guesswork out of dealing with the blocking.

          If someone is tryin

          • by webheaded (997188)
            Who cares if they tell me I can't do it? I want my phone to access the internet...all of it. TELLING me I can't do something doesn't solve the problem of NOT BEING ABLE TO DO IT. That pisses me off. I don't even understand why they're blocking it...honestly. From a network management stand point, why would you block IRC? o_O
            • Who cares if they tell me I can't do it?

              One of the problems in avoiding the blocking that has been practiced by both fixed and mobile internet providers in the past is that neither has announced what they were blocking, making it unnecessarily difficult for consumers to make purchasing decisions informed by accurate facts. So, I'm going to say lots of people probably care about being able to get accurate information on the services actually provided.

              Further, requiring accurate reports of what is being block

      • by jonwil (467024)

        I think the bit about telephony should say "nor shall such person block applications that compete with the provider's voice or video telephony services or with the provider's text and multimedia messaging services, subject to reasonable network management."

        That is, providers are not allowed to block things that compete with SMS and MMS in the same way they are not allowed to block things like Skype or FaceTime or other voice and video call applications.

    • Powel's Kid was running the FCC under Bush Jr. I assume that was part of the package to get Powel in with Bush, or just Powel pulling some strings for nepotism. That wouldn't be all so bad, it was when the kid rolled back all the anti-monopoly changes in the 1996 telco reform act and allowed wired lines their protected monopoly status again. You wonder why it's a duopoly in the states? The FCC under Bush is a major factor in this. Oh also the lovely Rep Upton (R-MI) who was head of the house subcommittee o
  • If net neutrality was strictly applied to wireless carriers, wouldn't they have to stop charging for tethering since they are price discriminating based on where the packet originates from?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yep. Do you want to file, or are you going to wait? They will change the rules when someone with money and time makes them change the rules.
  • The line based ISPs lost their battle, their bandwidth is cheaper than dirt. Wireless carriers have to build and use expensive towers so their per GB rate is much much higher.

    The thing they are trying to avoid is terminating user contracts because they went over their cap limit. I remember when wireless carrier internet was first starting, Verizon termed mine for torrenting down a few linux distros in a day. A year later I got a check for $50 from a class action lawsuit paying for my termed broadband car

  • Wired spectrum from the local service provider to the customer is limited only by money and the time, effort, and politics of laying new wires. Barring local political obstacles or the rare geographical obstacles, companies are free to invest and lay more fiber to their customers.

    Wireless is another matter. Even if additional spectrum were auctioned off and radio towers built every other block, there is a practical limit to wireless bandwidth. There's also the issue that there's not a lot of spectrum to

    • That argument would have merit if they weren't selling 5-Laptop hotspots.

      • Presumably they're only selling what they believe their infrastructure can support. If the data bandwidth required were two or three times their capacity model and they didn't have funding or spectrum to increase capacity, not only are they screwed, but so are all their customers.

        We can't have it both ways. Either a few pay for tethering and large data usage, or we all pay for tethering and large data usage whether we need/want it or not. What everyone seems to want is all you can eat data with unlimited te

    • Amazing. A limited resource that everyone can tap into. Here comes the tragedy of the commons!
      If only there was some way to keep the hoards from screwing it up for the rest of us.
      Like a per-arranged set of rules that the majority of us found to be fair enough.
      ...
      REGULATIONS

      Wired and wireless ARE fundamentally different. But the fact that wireless has a limited resource isn't a good argument to make EXCEPTIONS to the regulations.
      • by sjames (1099)

        Anybody remember all the hype about 5 years ago when we heard how much cheaper it is to deploy wireless bandwidth and how much cheaper it was to maintain?

        Can someone remind me then how much cheaper mobile networking is compared to cable or DSL?

  • The lawsuit (PDF), which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, claims the rules are different for fixed line and mobile wireless broadband.

    That's not a controversial claim, its a fact which is explicitly noted with a justification presented in the Report and Order.

    (Report & Order, para. 8: "Mobile broadband is at an earlier stage in its development than fixed broadband and is evolving rapidly. For that and other reasons discussed below, we conclude that it is appropria

    • For instance, there's nothing keeping them from saying "streaming video via our paid app doesn't count towards your tiny data caps". This is in fact reasonable for them since it means that they don't need to increase their upstream connections.

      It kind of sucks for the end user though since if everyone in a given area does it the effect is chilling.

      • For instance, there's nothing keeping them from saying "streaming video via our paid app doesn't count towards your tiny data caps". This is in fact reasonable for them since it means that they don't need to increase their upstream connections.

        Given the rule in paragraph 66 of the Report and Order which equates rendering content unusable with blocking it, establishing very low caps in general or specific to competing voice or video service which acted to render competing voice and video services unusable in

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