Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


February 4, 2014

Service Electric Cable TV & Communications, a 200,000-subscriber system in eastern Pennsylvania and northwestern New Jersey, said on Monday it was upgrading its network with 2,000 miles of faster fiber telecommunications lines. Service Electric serves the Allentown area, Upper Bucks County, and Mercer and Hunterdon Counties in New Jersey. Equipment supplier Infinera, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is supplying the fiber equipment. Philadelphia Inquirer

Entering the home stretch of his congressional career, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) is trying again to let the federal government regulate the Internet just enough to preserve the status quo. And this legislation is almost guaranteed to meet the same fate as his last bill on the topic back in 2010: It will run into a brick wall of GOP opposition. Waxman's proposal would overturn a recent appeals court ruling that barred the FCC from enforcing the "net neutrality" -- excuse me, "open Internet" -- rules it adopted (with its two Republican appointees dissenting) late in December 2010. Until the FCC formally rewrote its net neutrality regulations, the Waxman bill would allow the commission to continue to enforce the 2010 strictures.

The latter imposed three general requirements on wired broadband Internet service providers such as Time Warner Cable and local phone companies: They couldn't block customers from using legal websites, services or devices; they couldn't discriminate unreasonably against a legal site or service's traffic; and they had to disclose how they managed the congestion on their networks. Wireless broadband providers, such as Sprint, couldn't block legal sites or services, and they couldn't discriminate unreasonably against competing voice or video services. The Times' editorial board supported the rules, as do I. So did much of the telecom and tech industries, which helped craft them. The political reality, though, is that GOP lawmakers have long opposed federal regulations in general and Internet regulations in particular. And they've got a point: The Internet has prospered thanks to a rare combination of government largesse and regulatory forbearance.

Proponents of net neutrality say they're just trying to protect the freedom and openness of the Internet. But they want to do so by restricting the freedom of ISPs. Granted, the rules would stop ISPs from acting as gatekeepers to or editors of the bounty of content and services online. So the FCC isn't regulating for the sake of regulating; it's curbing ISPs' freedom for the sake or preserving everyone else's online. But still, it's regulating, and in the GOP playbook, that's a nonstarter. It's worth noting that Waxman's earlier attempt to legislate on net neutrality sought a middle ground between liberals who wanted ISPs to be classified as "common carriers" subject to strict federal control and libertarians who didn't want the government to intervene in the market at all. The outcome would have looked a lot like what the FCC ultimately adopted, only to have the rules thrown out by an appeals panel.

Now, though, Waxman and his cosponsor, Rep. Anna G. Eschoo (D-Menlo Park), and their Senate counterpart, Edward Markey (D-Mass.), appear to be ignoring the opening that the appeals court gave them. The panel ruled that the FCC did, in fact, have the power to regulate ISPs without having to classify them as common carriers. But that power did not extend to the sort of blanket prohibition on blocking and discriminatory traffic management that the commission adopted.

The court seemed to be inviting the commission and its allies to come up with a new way to respond to complaints about ISPs restricting access to content or services or otherwise tipping the competitive scales for online businesses. Broadband ISPs haven't done anything that would violate the 2010 rules since they were adopted. If and when they do, the question will be whether the actions could be reasonably characterized as anti-competitive, misleading to consumers or damaging to the spread of broadband. Those are the sorts of actions the FCC (or possibly the Federal Trade Commission) has the statutory authority to take action against.

That sort of approach -- one that's based on enforcing existing strictures in the law rather than coming up with new rules -- might even have bipartisan support. Even if it doesn't, it seems a more fruitful path to explore than trying to persuade Congress to let the FCC "regulate the Internet." Los Angeles Times

Apple is snapping up massive amounts of bandwidth - but what is it for?

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is making waves in the world of content delivery networks - Internet infrastructure capable of delivering large amounts of data to customers. Apple is buying bandwidth in such bulk that some in the industry believe that the company is laying the groundwork for an upgraded video delivery service.

For years, speculation has mounted about Apple's greater ambitions in the living room. Apple executives have said that the TV viewing experience is unsatisfactory to most consumers and that improving it is an area of great interest to the company. Walter Isaacson, in his biography of Steve Jobs, wrote that the Apple's former CEO wanted to make television sets simple and elegant, as Apple had done with computers, music players and phones. The biographer quoted Jobs as saying he had cracked the code with a TV interface that synced seamlessly with other Apple devices and was simple enough to eliminate the need for complex remotes. More than two years after the book, we're still waiting for Apple's iTV.

On a conference call last week to discuss its latest earnings with analysts, Mr. Cook said Apple is on track to break into new product categories this year, fueling speculation about a new television or revamped video service. Regardless of its TV plans, the company's needs for Internet infrastructure continue to grow. The expansion of its iCloud service and growing demand for content from its iTunes and Apps stores are also driving its needs for greater bandwidth. It's also part of an expanding effort by technology firms such as Google and Facebook to control more of the Internet's backbone. Such investments are a way for technology firms to reduce costs, improve the performance of online services and guarantee that they have enough capacity for the growing traffic in online video, games and other data-rich content. Associated Press