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EDITORIAL

15.03.2015
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Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says it is “ending lingering uncertainty about the future of the open internet” by enacting “once and for all strong, sustainable rules” on net neutrality in one of the most widely anticipated – and opposed – measures by a major regulator in recent times. Although the full rules have not yet been published, as is thenorm with FCC announcements, the intent is to reclassify broadband as a telecoms service, and there are three ‘bright line’ rules:

  • No blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices
  • No throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices
  • No paid prioritisation: broadband providers may not favour some lawful internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind – in other words, no ‘fast lanes’. This rule also bans ISPs from prioritising content and services of their affiliates.

The FCC says the new order “forbears from applying utility-style rate regulation”, including last-mile unbundling and “burdensome administrative filing requirements or accounting standards”, noting that mobile voice services have been regulated under a similar light-touch approach, and “investment and usage boomed”.

The two Republican commissioners dissented. The full rules will run to 300 or more pages and are likely to be subject to legal challenge.

Supporters of the new rules are also concerned about a ‘general conduct rule’ that will let the FCC take action against ISP practices that don’t count as blocking, throttling or paid prioritisation. Vague rules are a problem, says the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “as neither ISPs nor internet users can know in advance what kinds of practices will run afoul of the rule… We must stay vigilant, and call out FCC overreach.”

Another point for regulators in the US and Europe is on specialised services, such as for car and healthcare apps. There is concern that ISPs could use these apps as loopholes in net neutrality rules.

At the same time the FCC also ruled in favour of two municipalities being able to set up their own high-speed networks, an important precedent.


Digital Index for Europe

European Union

The European Commission has developed a ‘digital economy and society index’ that gives snapshots for each member country of connectivity, internet skills, use of online activities from news to shopping, and how widespread are digital services such as cloud, e-commerce, e-government and e-health. The data is mostly from 2013 and 2014 and “gives an overview of how digital Europe is, including rankings of the top digital performers”.

Denmark is the top performer and Romania comes bottom. A majority (75% in 2014) of Europeans use the internet on a regular basis; Europeans “are eager to access audiovisual content online”; and digital public services are an everyday reality in some countries but almost non-existent in others. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) face barriers with e-commerce: only 15% of SMEs sell online – and of those, fewer than half do so across borders.

The index combines more than 30 indicators and uses a weighting system to rank each country.


Broadcast Code Paper

Australia

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released the second paper in its ‘investigation concepts’ series. The paper considers the requirements for fairness, impartiality and viewpoints as set out in the various broadcasting codes. The series was conceived to assist a broad range of stakeholders to better understand the ACMA’s approach to the broadcasting code requirements. The ‘Fairness, impartiality and viewpoints’ paper follows the recently released ‘Accuracy’ paper, and includes links to relevant investigations to provide context.


4G Grows, Video is King

LTE Mobile

According to GSMA Intelligence, 4G-LTE networks will cover more than a third of the global population by year-end – 4G coverage will be available to 35% of the global population, up from 27% at the end of last year. Deployments typically use the digital dividend bands (700/800 MHz), refarmed spectrum in existing 2G/3G bands (notably 1800 MHz) or the IMTextension bands (2500/2600 MHz).

Meanwhile Telecoms.com’s annual industry survey shows that video streaming is the most lucrative 4G service for operators, but they still see over-the-top services as a competitive concern. Voice-over-LTE is the second most lucrative service (56%) followed by data roaming (49%) and HD video calling (41%).


Supportive Policy Urged For Mobile

Mobile Impact

A report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) on ‘the mobile revolution’ finds that the mobile value chain generated almost $3.3 trillion in revenue globally in 2014 and is directly responsible for 11m jobs, and warns that “to ensure that the mobile revolution continues and expands, policymakers must support an environment that fosters innovation and investment”.

Meanwhile figures from the ITU show that “mobile broadband is the fastest growing technology in human history”. The number of mobile phone subscriptions now exceeds the world’s population of around 7bn, and active mobile broadband subscriptions exceed 2.1bn – three times higher than wireline broadband.

BCG’s report examines six countries: US, Germany, South Korea, Brazil, China and India, where the combined ‘mobile GDP’ contributes more than $1.2 trillion to overall GDP, it estimates.

In particular, mobile represents 11% of South Korea’s GDP. Mobile network infrastructure costs have fallen dramatically, while performance has soared: a 95% cost reduction (per megabyte transmitted) from 2G networks to 3G and a further 67% drop from 3G to 4G. Among the policy recommendations are:

  • Strong patent protection is needed to encourage large and risky investments in mobile technology
  • Industry standards are required to solve the industry’s most complex technology problems
  • Continuous allocation of additional radio spectrum, especially more licensed spectrum, is needed
  • To reap the economic benefit of 5G networks, mobile players will need to invest about $4 trillion in R&D and capex by 2020.

‘The mobile revolution: How mobile technologies drive a trillion-dollar impact’ is at: on.bcg.com/17YcO2m


Dutch Evidence for Neutrality

Net Neutrality

A briefing from consultancy Rewheel, which covers mobile connectivity competitiveness, notes that in the Netherlands, where zero-rating of content on the internet is not allowed, the telecoms operator KPN has doubled, free of charge, its mobile internet volume caps to encourage use of its online videos. “This is evidence of the competitive benefits of net neutrality rules that ban price discrimination (zerorating) – it leads to lower internet usage prices and higher volume caps.” The move follows a fine on Vodafone by the Dutch consumer authority for violating the country’s net neutrality law for zerorating HBO’s Go video streaming service. KPN has launched its own on-demand service, and has opted to boost its data rather than hobble the service owing to low caps, reckons Rewheel. But KPN was also fined for blocking other services.


UK Gives Access to White Spaces

Spectrum

UK regulator, Ofcom, has decided to go ahead with access to the unused parts of the radio spectrum in the 470 to 790 MHz frequency band. “Our decision follows extensive consultation with stakeholders and a pilot,” it says. “The new technology will share this band with digital terrestrial television (DTT), including local TV, and programme making and special events (PMSE), including in particular wireless microphone users.” The sharing will take place dynamically, controlled by databases which will hold information on the location of DTT and PMSE users and white space devices that will have access to the spectrum band, but only to the extent that this does not cause interference to existing users.

HISTORIC FCC RULING IN THE US

Intermedia Issue:
Vol 43, Issue 1
Issue Date:
March 2015

Vol 43, Issue 1 Features

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Poles of Excellence 15.03.2015
DC Currents 15.03.2015 Cristina Murroni
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