Historical Context for the Imminent Demise of Network Neutrality

On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission will vote 3-2 along party lines to obliterate the regulations that preserve the principle of network neutrality in the United States. Many have written more eloquently than I can on the policy implications; some excellent examples reside here, here, and here.

But the spectacularly misnamed “Restoring Internet Freedom” Order represents much more than a big wet kiss to internet service providers, giving them carte blanche to engage in data-discrimination dependent on content-creators’ – and your – ability to pay to send and receive. It functionally removes the FCC from having any role to play in making sure that ISPs don’t balkanize the online world to extract maximum revenue, pushing that responsibility into the lap of the Federal Trade Commission – though one Commissioner has already gone on record saying the FTC doesn’t have the legal authority or technical expertise to handle it.

As added bonuses, the Order also preempts any and all state laws that might seek to preserve the principle of network neutrality going forward, and allows ISPs to play fast and loose with the disclosures they must make regarding what you actually get when you pay for broadband service. Read More

Al Jazeera America Done in by Team Cable, Cheap Oil

Seemingly out of nowhere: last Wednesday the executives at the award-winning cable news channel Al Jazeera America called an all-hands meeting and announced they would be closing down at the end of April. More than 700 people are expected to lose their jobs. AJAM first launched on 2013 and has struggled mightily to achieve a meaningful audience and generate advertising revenue.

Many of the preemptive post-mortems of AJAM assert that the problem with the channel was its journalism. Al Jazeera more broadly has a reputation for doing the style of reporting that curries no favor with the powerful, making for a fresh perspective in the U.S. cable news world. It also attracted a substantial roster of solid journalists from both commercial and public television.

The focus on AJAM’s content is misguided, for in many respects the network had the deck stacked against it before it ever took to the air. For this, you can primarily blame Team Cable: Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, Charter, et al., the de facto oligopoly which functions as a gatekeeper to the cable television platform itself. Read More

Comcastic Adventures: Coming to Everyone?

It’s difficult, even for me, to wrap my head around the scale and scope of the merger-in-progress between Comcast and NBC/Universal. I’ll leave it to Harold Feld, who comprehensively (and in eminently-readable fashion) analyzes the implications of this deal.

Quoth Feld, “In ideological terms, it is rather like Vatican City joining the Arab League.” Distinctively, it’s the first merger where historical enemies in the Big Media marketplace are now combining. The implications are massive; Comcast’s promises of the merger’s benefits clearly ring hollow. Read More

Comcastic Adventures: Capping Your Bandwidth

By now, you’ve all heard about the FCC slapping Comcast’s wrists for engaging in data discrimination; it’s simply been required to disclose its current and future “network management” practices, under penalty of…nothing, really. Both Comcast and those who called for the FCC to act on its shady attempts at subverting network neutrality are appealing the FCC’s decision.

We’ve already covered Comcast’s history of opaque and unreliable service, especially when it comes to crippling your e-mail. Comcast’s initial response to the FCC ruling has been the announcement of a 250 gigabyte per-month usage cap on all residential users, effective next month, with extra-special throttling on the most intensive users at any given time (to be determined at Comcast’s discretion). Read More

Miscellaneous Follow-Upage

After months of frustration, the hosting provider for DIYmedia.net has saved my day by stepping in and graciously providing me with independent, unrestricted e-mail capability. I’ll never have to rely on Comcast again for that application (provided Comcast’s general broadband network uptime remains reliable, which is a questionable proposition).

You know you’ve got a systemic problem when the first prompt a customer encounters at your 1-800 number is, “For trouble with your service….” Read More