The battle over net neutrality is flaring again. That's good.
Spurred by overwhelming support in the public and business communities, and despite stark differences of opinion among Internet service providers (ISPs), legislation introduced in the House this month will once again litigate the biggest fight affecting Internet usage in American history.
The attempt at maintaining a fair and open Internet, known as net neutrality, is nothing new. The concept of non-discrimination in access to essential facilities -- called common carriage -- has been long-standing in law. But when the FCC reclassified telecommunications as information, common carriage no longer applied to Internet access. Most recently the FCC, led by current chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai, voted to repeal a 2015 set of rules that attempted to restore some common carriage principles by reclassifying broadband as a Title II service to be regulated more like a public utility. Because of the recent repeal, the door was blown wide open for companies to discriminate by charging websites or content providers for faster or slower Internet.
The Politics of Connectivity
Democrats seized on net neutrality as a hot-button issue, something many Americans support.
A world without neutrality means ISPs will have unencumbered control over most everyone's online experience. Still, the FCC-backed benefits to repealing net neutrality remain unfulfilled. Their case is, essentially, that telecom expenditures and network upgrades slowed after the initial ruling and tier ones like Comcast or Verizon, freed from net neutrality obligations, would increase investment and expand coverage. We see the exact opposite result; there's actually been reduced investment by cable ISPs since the repeal.
Those of us who see the enormous benefits to keeping rules that guarantee net neutrality -- including 83% of Americans -- feel these regulations were important for personal freedom and a fairer marketplace. Giving preferential treatment to any particular service or application to any company that pays more money isn't just unethical; an Internet without net neutrality also limits the inherent freedom of innovation for the economy. And it impinges on civic values like free speech.
While a few larger ISPs promise to maintain net neutrality in name only, they spent about $30 million combined lobbying against regulations that held them accountable. The National Internet and Television Association (formerly the National Cable and Telecommunications Association) spent over $500,000 -- or half a billion dollars. After all that lobbying and schmoozing, members of this trade organization now have de facto legal permission to create online fast and slow lanes or to charge an additional toll while acting on nothing but a vague, good faith promise that they won't take advantage of users. Sowing confusion about how the FCC ruling will indirectly affect consumers is great for their business.
The Internet should nurture an environment for permissionless innovation. Businesses and the economy rely on this. But the broadband connectivity marketplace isn't fully developed enough to give sufficient consumer choice, severely limiting innovators unless there is net neutrality, Fundamentally, we need net neutrality protections because of the marketplace's failure to provide competition for consumer Internet access. For example, if you don't like a particular restaurant, you can simply choose to eat dinner elsewhere. Most likely, you can even choose a different restaurant that offers the same type of cuisine. That's not the case for residential Internet access.
Large-scale residential providers already have the lion's share of customers, meaning they have market power. Essentially, they're holding customers hostage to extract an extra toll from content providers to reach this audience. If there were dozens of choices and somebody tried to impose restrictions on content or applications, you could take your Internet access business somewhere else. You only need regulation when market forces are insufficient to discipline any supposed bad actors.
By contrast, the business sector actually is a competitive marketplace. Consequently, the marketplace imposes discipline on ISP behavior and there's little chance any business would tolerate any kind of access abuse. If consumers had the same ISP choices as enterprises, the need for net neutrality protections would be greatly reduced.
The bottom line is this: the Internet should remain open, with equal access for any new application, content form or social platform. Net neutrality is an appropriate regulatory framework for the modern Internet. These rules and protections should come back. We call on our fellow, independent ISPs to remain engaged and recognize these civic values are also essential to innovation -- and to the future economic health of society at large.
On Jan. 23, Broadband World News hosts a Calix-sponsored webinar that explores several ways CSPs can enhance customer experience and find new business opportunities to avoid devolving into a speed race where nobody wins, not even the customer.
The lack of an accurate broadband map means states and counties are tackling this issue themselves – and sometimes finding big disparities in the data – before spending their residents' money on deploying infrastructure.
Next year many operators must decide whether to invest more in HFC or go all-in to fiber, pick their PON and choose their managed-WiFi path, writes analyst Dan Grossman, who also recommends providers bundle managed WiFi and analytics to best serve residential subscribers -- and operators' own businesses.
Public-private partnerships, investor interest, self-help in rural areas and incumbents' return set the scene for a busy year of broadband deployment in the US countryside in 2020, writes Analyst Dan Grossman.
It wasn't long ago that TV was ranked by subscribers as the most important service in the bundle provided by their communications service provider (CSP). Recent research indicates that for nearly three quarters of subscribers, broadband is now the most important service. Broadcast TV is the most important service to only 15% of North American consumers, replaced by OTT video streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. In addition, many different competitors are moving aggressively to stake a claim in consumers' homes.
In 2020, CSPs need to fight back by transforming their business models, which are becoming more reliant on a single source of revenue: fixed broadband services.
This webinar will focus on helping CSPs transform their business models by placing a firm focus on delivering a sensational subscriber experience and by offering compelling new services that generate value for subscribers. These actions will reinforce the CSP's strategic position in the home network and position themselves for growth in the next decade.
Key topics include:
Being the first to market with WiFi 6 technology, in response to consumer purchases of new devices over the holidays;
Having the insights needed to proactively resolve issues, often before your subscribers even know that there are issues;
Providing help desk agents with the visibility they need to resolve common subscriber issues more quickly;
Delivering a mobile app, in response to consumer demands for the ability to do some things themselves, rather than having to call technical support; and
Addressing consumer concerns around device security, privacy and control with enhanced security and parental controls.
In this insightful Light Reading radio show, Kurt Raaflaub, Head of Strategic Solutions Marketing, will outline the key service provider challenges, deployment considerations, next-gen Gigabit technologies, and service models to win market share in the rapidly growing MDU market.