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A Congressional effort to revive the rules has passed in the Senate, but has yet to be taken up by the House

WASHINGTON — June 11 marked the end of the road for Title II regulations, more commonly known as “net neutrality,” as the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of the rules has now taken effect.

The FCC released a statement standing by its repeal and emphasizing that the “internet wasn’t broken” in 2015 when the rules were passed, framing the repeal as a return to the “light-touch approach” that was in place as the Internet first formed and grew, with some enhanced rules on disclosure requirements for service providers, according to rcrwireless.com . As just one example: If customers’ terms of service do change, it must be disclosed to them.

An effort in Congress to revive the rules — under which internet service providers were required to provide equal access to all content without throttling, blocking or offering paid priority based on the service or content — has passed in the Senate, but has yet to be taken up by the House. There are still state attorneys general fighting the repeal in the courts, and some states are attempting to put their own net neutrality rules in place.

As one example, on May 30, the California State Senate overwhelmingly passed strong net neutrality legislation despite “fierce opposition from big ISPs, including AT&T and Comcast,” according to lightreading.com . The California bill (SB 822) would amend state law by adding several online practices to the state’s Consumers’ Legal Remedies Act’s definition of “certain unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in the provision of goods and services in the state. “Under the bill, those unfair methods would now include blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of web content, as well as paid zero-rating plans.”

The FCC order eliminating the federal net neutrality rules pre-empts states from trying to impose the rules within their boundaries. “So a classic states’ rights court battle is brewing in Sacramento, especially if other states either follow California’s legislative lead or require providers to adhere to net neutrality rules when they sign government broadband deals,” according to the same article in Light Reading. 

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New England grass roots effort may offer new hope for the movement

CONCORD, Mass. — It seems like technology companies have become immensely powerful and seemingly accountable to no one. 

In Radio Magazine Today, we’ve used a lot of space reviewing recent federal rollbacks of net neutrality. Is there anything to be done by the average citizen? According to an opinion piece in the Washington Post , there is — through internet service provided by local governments, which are directly accountable to citizens.

Mark Howell is the chief information officer for the town of Concord, Massachusetts, and he writes: “I’ve overseen the creation of a successful municipal broadband system by treating Internet service like what it really is — a public utility, like water and electricity. We’re providing residents with broadband Internet service that is inexpensive and reliable and respects net neutrality and privacy principles.”

So just how was this accomplished? Concord has had a municipal electric utility since the early 1900s. 

“At our town meeting in 2009, citizens approved a plan for the utility to build a fiber-optic network because it needed upgrades to support such “smart grid” functions as advanced meter reading and load-management programs.” In 2013 the town meeting approved a plan to use that network to provide Internet service.

“Although we spent money to invest in this new infrastructure, once we started working on the system, we found that we could save money. We used our fiber-optic system to interconnect the schools, library, other town buildings and water system sites, saving tens of thousands of dollars a year on expensive and increasingly unreliable telephone lines. Once we started providing our own Internet service, the town saved even more.”

The city offers simple, flat-rate pricing without any of the “confusing packages” that customers of private telecoms have to deal with, and twice in four years Internet speeds have increased with no price hike.

“Our Internet service operates under rules set not by a for-profit company but by locally elected leaders and residents who volunteer to serve on the service’s board,” writes Howell. “We strictly abide by the principles of free speech and net neutrality, which means that all Internet traffic is treated equally. We also protect privacy by not sharing customer information with anyone.”

The city issued bonds to get started, and they will eventually be repaid by revenue from customers. Broadband revenue is covering the operating costs. The debt is financing the cost of adding about 300 customers per year, and according to Howell, “we project that by 2020, revenue will be covering these expansion costs as well. On top of that, there are the benefits that come with being a place that offers high-quality, high-speed Internet to homes and businesses.” 

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It would prohibit paid prioritization, zero rating plans, apply rules to interconnections in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Democratic state legislator in California is proposing revising consumer protection laws as a way to reinstate tough new network neutrality rules being rolled back by the FCC.

Sen. Scott Weiner Tuesday (March 13) introduced a tough new version of a net neutrality bill  that would add various online practices to the Consumers Legal Remedies Act’s definition of “certain unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in the provision of goods and services in the state.

Those unfair methods would now include blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and specifically paid zero rating plans, among other things (see below).

ISPs can zero rate in application-agnostic ways, but can’t do so in exchange for being paid by a third party. Zero rating plans are ones in which third parties subsidize an ISP’s exclusion of accessing their site — say streaming a bandwidth-heavy video — from a users’ bandwidth allowance. It is both a way for the edge provider to drive traffic to their site and for the ISP to differentiate service.

The bill would also tie access to the state’s Universal Service Fund broadband subsidies to adhering to the new net neutrality rules and apply net neutrality to interconnections, which the FCC did in the 2015 Open Internet order and the current FCC reversed.

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The company is asking for Special Temporary Authority to advance its understanding of 5G and network potential in the millimeter wave bands

STAMFORD, Conn. — Charter Communications is going ahead with more tests of fixed wireless in the 28 GHz band, in and around the Los Angeles area. The cable company is asking the FCC for Special Temporary Authority to advance its understanding of 5G technology and network potential in the millimeter wave bands, according to fiercewireless.com . The application lists Ericsson as the manufacturer of 25 units to be tested.

The company is asking for the STA for 180 days, starting at the end of March. The goal of the tests is to develop techniques and to gain a greater understanding of fixed wireless broadband systems in the millimeter-wave bands.

Charter is also seeking permission to conduct more tests to study coverage, capacity and propagation in the 3550-3700 MHz CBRS band. Their latest application calls for outdoor fixed wireless experiments in Lexington, Kentucky, using 19 different models of equipment, according to the same article. “Charter plans to continue testing in rural communities to investigate further how to expand the speeds and services it delivers,” the company said.

Charter has also shown its support to the FCC for the opening of the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed use as soon as possible, noting the 5.9 GHz band’s size, location and capacity would be ideal for “next-gen” technologies.

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Publication of the final text of the decision signals that lawsuits challenging the rule rollback can be filed

WASHINGTON — It’s official. Thursday, Feb. 22, was the red letter day for court and congressional challenges to the FCC’s Dec. 14 decision to roll back FCC network neutrality rules and reclassify ISPs out from under Title II common carrier regs.

The FCC has delivered the final Restoring Internet Freedom order to the Federal Register, which has just signaled it would be publishing that order on Thursday.

Publication of the final text of the decision signals that lawsuits challenging the rule rollback can be filed, and triggers the FCC’s determination of the date when the rules go into effect — challenges can begin even before that effective date. That doesn’t necessarily mean the rules will go into effect soon. The FCC said in the order that it would not release an effective date until the Office of Management and Budget approves the new reporting requirements of the enhanced transparency rules and that, too, has been published in the Federal Register, which has not happened yet. That reporting requirement is central to enforcement of net neutrality in the absence of bright-line rules, since the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department will rely on what ISPs say they are doing to decide whether that is unfair or deceptive or anticompetitive.

Publication also triggers a 60-legislative-day deadline for Congress to vote on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, pushed by Democrats and net neutrality activists, to nullify the decision. That is a long shot bordering on simply a shot across the vow in advance of the legal challenges to come, and a way to keep the issue alive for Democrats who see it as a midterm election issue.

The FCC had already sent copies of the order to House and Senate, but the CRA clock does not start until Register publication, according to Hill and FCC sources.

On Dec. 14, in a politically divided 3-2 vote (On Dec. 14, in a politically divided 3-2 vote, the FCC chairman Ajit Pai-led Republican majority eliminated the rules against blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, as well as the “general conduct standard,” which gave the FCC a way to potentially prohibit anticompetitive or discriminatory ISP conduct that was not covered by the rules.

Importantly, it also reclassified ISPs as Title I information services, removing them from the common carrier regulatory bucket and giving chief oversight of ISP conduct to the Federal Trade Commission under its unfair, deceptive and anticompetitive authority.

The item restores the FTC’s authority over broadband regulation, and adopts a transparency rule that requires ISPs to let the government and web users know how they are managing their networks and what business practices they are using, which the FTC can enforce if those practices are unfair or deceptive or anticompetitive, and the Justice Department can enforce if they violate antitrust laws.

That means ISPs could block or throttle, though they have promised not to, and engage in paid prioritization, which some ISPs may want to try as a way to differentiate their services.

The FCC also asserts the ability to preempt state or local attempts to create their own net neutrality laws or regulations.

The Dec. 14 vote was a long-sought victory for ISPs, who argue that the Democratic-led FCC’s 2015 reclassification of internet access as a Title II common-carrier service subject to those bright-line rules was regulatory overreach that depressed investment and innovation to no pro-consumer purchase.

Among net-neutrality activists, who had pulled out all the stops in the last days to try to head off the vote, it was billed as a death blow to the open Internet by a former Verizon lawyer (FCC chair Ajit Pai) in service of the Trump Administration and communications monopolies looking for even more power.

Which side will ultimately prevail is now in the hands of the Congress and the courts, the latter just the latest in a series of trips over the past decade.

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