The California Legislature has passed SB 822, a strong internet neutrality bill. The vote was 27 -12. Next, the bill goes to Governor Jerry Brown.
SB 822 would restore the net neutrality rules that were enacted federally under former President Barack Obama. Those rules were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission in December of 2017.
In May of 2018, the United States Senate overturned the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules by using the Congressional Review Act. But, for net neutrality to be reinstated federally, the House of Representatives would also have to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn the FCCs repeal of net neutrality – and then President Trump would have to sign it into law.
In my opinion, this is why some state legislatures are passing their own net neutrality bills. It seems to me that states can enact net neutrality legislation faster than the federal government will.
California also has a unique reason to pass a strong net neutrality bill. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s command vehicle faced email delays and challenges updating web-based documents with critical information about deployment during the Mendocino Complex fire.
Their internet provider was Verizon Wireless, who (according to the Los Angeles Times) “throttled down the department’s connection to 1/200 or less than previous speeds because the agency had exceeded its data plan limit.” Verizon says the situation was a “customer support mistake” and has nothing to do with net neutrality.
I live in California, and am hoping that this bill becomes law. Net neutrality is especially important for people who have chronic illnesses and/or disabilities (myself included) who are unable to work a typical job. Many of us are able to earn some income online because we can fit that work around our health issues and doctor appointments.
SB 822 (if signed into law) will prohibit internet service providers from:
- Blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.
- Engaging in zero-rating in exchange for consideration, monetary or otherwise, from a third party.
- Zero-rating some internet content, applications, services, or devices in a category – but not the entire category.
- Unreasonably interfering with, or unreasonably disadvantaging, either an end user’s ability to select, access, and use broadband internet access service or the lawful internet content, applications, service, or devices of the end user’s choice, or an edge provider’s ability to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to end users.
If you have an Xbox Gold Member and are a Xfinity (aka Comcast) subscriber you may have noticed a couple of additions to the Xbox app store, MLB, HBO Go and Xfinity on Demand. However if you try to log into HBO Go you will find yourself blocked, because HBO Go is not available on the Xbox if you get your Internet through Comcast. Just in case you think this is a plot against Xbox users by either Comcast or HBO Go, it isn’t HBO Go is also not available on the Roku for Comcast subscribers, although it is available on the iPad. I am sure this makes sense to someone at either Comcast or HBO Go, but I can’t think of a good reason other than someone wants more money, never mind, I just answered my own question.
Which means if you are a Comcast subscriber you can now watch Xfinity on Demand and MLB through your Xbox. (MLB does require a subscription) The difference is any content you watch on the Xbox through the Xfinity on Demand app does not count against the data cap. Comcast says this because it is being streamed through a private network. This has net neutrality advocates crying foul, since all other services including MLB do count against the data cap. Comcast says since they are treating all services that are on the public network equally they are still observing net neutrality. I find this argument difficult to swallow, if we follow their argument on I can see a future where there are two Internets, one for companies who can afford to pay for private networks and offer fast service and another for those who are relegated to the slower public network. Unless Xfinity on Demand because it is a part of the Comcast service takes a different private path to my residence and that path can only be followed by services owned directly by Comcast. If this isn’t true, then a packet coming from Xfinity on Demand is no different from one coming from MLB and uses the same bandwidth ( assuming all other things being equal). It will be interesting to see how this pans out.
However for now the biggest problem for many Xbox users seems to be even connecting to Xfinity on Demand through the Xbox. Many people are receiving error messages, when they try to connect. Are you a Comcast subscriber and an Xbox owner, what do you think of Xfinity on Demand on the Xbox can you even get into it. Does it bother you that its is being treated differently when it comes to your data cap.
“While the network neutrality debate in Washington has focused on what actions a broadband access provider might take to filter, prioritize or manage content requested by its subscribers, Comcast’s decision goes well beyond this. With this action, Comcast is preventing competing content from ever being delivered to Comcast’s subscribers at all, unless Comcast’s unilaterally-determined toll is paid – even though Comcast’s subscribers requested the content. With this action, Comcast demonstrates the risk of a ‘closed’ Internet, where a retail broadband Internet access provider decides whether and how their subscribers interact with content.”
link: Level 3 Communications Issues Statement Concerning Comcast’s Actions | Business Wire
This is a quote from a online article written by Level 3 a tier 1 Internet providers. Who is complaining because Comcast is charging a recurring fee for transmitting online movies and other content to Comcast customers. One of Level 3 main customers is Netflix who is a competes with Comcast on Demand Movie service and Xfinity. As a Comcast customer this behavior is not surprising. Unfortunately this is what happens when the company that owns the pipes also owns content. If Level 3 hadn’t agree to pay I may have been unable to get Netflix streaming even though I had paid for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Comcast tries to do the same thing to other companies who carry video such as Google, Amazon, Apple. The only thing that maybe stopping them is that they are trying to get the FCC to approve their merger with NBC.
As more and more people start to stream video from the Internet and it becomes a bigger competitor to traditional media. I suspect that this kind of action will be more common. Old media will try anything it can to hold on to its territory anyway its can. The FCC needs to hurry up and make their ruling on Net Neutrality. For a long time the argument about net neutrality was an academic one, but now with actions like this its is becomes a real world problem. Just another reason to dislike Comcast.
AT&T loves their double-speak and “we know what’s best for everyone” attitude. Whenever they get the chance, they trot out that same old tired argument about how they must have control over network traffic in order to “manage” it.
We all know who they are “managing” it for, and we all know that “management” will not have benefits for the end-user in any way that counts. What AT&T wants to do, just like other big providers, is sign contracts for traffic shaping that will benefit their bottom line. The end user, people like me who are using high-speed home broadband, will not gain anything from these agreements but limited access to an Internet right now that is unlimited. Who needs net neutrality? The end users do, and I hope we can continue the fight to get it.
Here in Missouri, Dave Nichols, the president of Missouri AT&T misses few opportunities to push his “vision” of a world without a net neutrality regulation in place, using the same old arguments that all of us can see through. He recently trotted his arguments through the newsroom of our local newspaper. It is the same stuff we hear all over the country, and we don’t believe it any better just because he’s a local guy.
This isn’t about how much money AT&T (or other providers) have spent on infrastructure or backbone (another argument AT&T likes to make). This is strictly about how much AT&T can pad their own bottom line. Agreements these huge providers make with large companies providing content is nothing more than censorship, in my opinion, and will lead to limited Internet access for many people. You’ll be able to hit the big sites easily, but anyone who can’t afford to pay AT&T and other big providers for the “privilege” of having their content available will be left out in the cold.
Unless net neutrality can become a reality, the AT&T’s of the world will have us by the ears and we will not be able to do anything about it.