back to article Axe net neutrality? Keep the set-top box lock-in? Easy as Pai: New FCC boss backs Big Cable

The new head of the US Federal Communications Commission has promised to cut back on red tape and free up Big Cable – which has been suffering under record profits for too long. The first meeting of the federal regulator under the Trump Administration saw chair Ajit Pai makes some announcements: Requirements for radio …

  1. DougS Silver badge

    Unfortunately for big cable, pretty soon they'll be swimming in competition

    Rolling out DOCSIS 3.1 will be great for people wanting to get streaming packages like Sling TV or Directv Now. The only thing that will stop them will be too-small caps, but it will be difficult to justify a 200 GB cap when you are selling people a gigabit a second that could run through the entire cap in a half hour.

    One of the big reasons why those streaming packages saves money is, surprise surprise, not having to rent boxes but instead using those you own. I suspect cable will eventually be forced to go along with that, though they'll probably try to replace that revenue via "per TV" type fees at first.

    Big cable is going to be squeezed on the other side by cellular providers who will use LTE-A and 5G to offer fixed wireless internet at a gigabit and undercut cable since they won't have to deal with franchise agreements or running wires to everyone's home. Plus AT&T has AirGig, which looks like very interesting technology for making it far cheaper to backhaul multi-gigabit connections to rural towers in remote locations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unfortunately for big cable, pretty soon they'll be swimming in competition

      "...it will be difficult to justify a 200 GB cap when you are selling people a gigabit a second that could run through the entire cap in a half hour."

      Difficult to justify for a cable company? Notice I'm not being specific about the difficulties of justifications by cable companies. Hey, the cable bill went up $20 this month without any difficulties of justification, because there was no justification. Justice served.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unfortunately for big cable, pretty soon they'll be swimming in competition

      Who told you that they will not shape down all of these packages to a rate where they cannot compete with their own offerings? Why cap when you can shape?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Unfortunately for big cable, pretty soon they'll be swimming in competition

        How do you shape encrypted traffic? Say going through an SSH tunnel or VPN?

        1. Shart Tank

          Re: Unfortunately for big cable, pretty soon they'll be swimming in competition

          That should be easy. The partner services are on a whitelist and get preferential full-speed access while everything else gets lumped into the same few-kilobits-per-second bucket routed via overloaded peering points.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Unfortunately for big cable, pretty soon they'll be swimming in competition

        It will be harder for them to play anti net neutrality games when they have competition, which wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon will provide by 2020 or so.

        The problem cable providers face is that they have become so hated that people will jump at a chance to dump them. Of course AT&T and Verizon aren't exactly loved, but I think Comcast and TWC are hated even more than cellular carriers.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Unfortunately for big cable, pretty soon they'll be swimming in competition

          "Of course AT&T and Verizon aren't exactly loved, but I think Comcast and TWC are hated even more than cellular carriers."

          Really? You should hear some of the gripes about service plans, transfer rates, and costs. Plus wireless has a sheer physical limit meaning they'll never be able to really compete with terrestrial services.

  2. The_Idiot

    The thing that...

    ... pushes my buttons isn't 'Wheeler right, Pai wrong'. It isn't 'Pai right, Wheeler wrong'.

    Nope - it's @$^ metrics!

    One of the basic tenets I was taught back when they didn't actually teach you how to write Business Cases, because you just followed Bob (or Jane), who'd written great ones for years, round and watched how they did it, was just that. Metrics. That you had to identify, _in_advance_, how you were going to measure success or failure, over what time those measurements would be taken, who would measure and how. And not only identify it, but publish it and get buy in - again, _in_advance_ - from interested parties and consumers. And then live or die by those metrics.

    Where are the advance, agreed metrics to decide/ prove ('prove' in the sense of 'test') the chosen solution path is working, or indeed isn't? You know, the ones both the money men _and_ the public can look at, read results of and use to make future decisions?

    Or maybe it's Door B. You know - the 'modern' way? That is, just do it whatever partisan choice says must be done, wait a while, then look for anything that looks like it measures better today than yesterday (whether it has anything to do with the 'solution' or not) and call it a win?

    Sigh. I know. Door B, right? Can I cry now?

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. dan1980

    Captialism is one of several economic models that can be implemented in order to improve society. Crucially, for capitalism to actual work toward that end it requires competition in the market place.

    A truly free market has no protection against monopolies forming and this is ESPECIALLY problematic and - and likely to occur - where there is a large barrier to entry, such as there is with cable services.

    What I find interesting is that, time and again, those who favour privatising public services tend to justify that by saying that competition in the free market will drive down prices and increase quality of service and choice. And, yet, those same type of people also seem to strongly favour removal of regulations that promote competition in the marketplace.

    Not all regulations are good and some are outright idiotic and truly deserve to be called 'red tape', but you can't (shouldn't) just label them all as such. It's a common tactic - you build a negative profile around some label and then whatever you apply that label to, you get to bypass actually explaining why it is harmful.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Adam Smith got there forst

      Adam Smith said (in short) that free markets lead inexorably to monopoly, and that only Government regulation would prevent that. The development of capitalism since his time has proved him right, from the Trusts of the late 1900s up to today.

      1. dan1980

        Re: Adam Smith got there forst

        Exactly so.

        A true, laissez faire, 'everyone go out and make as much money as you can without restriction' is a good economic plan in the same way that 'everyone going out and driving as fast as they can without restriction' is a good traffic plan.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Adam Smith got there forst

          "A true, laissez faire, 'everyone go out and make as much money as you can without restriction' is a good economic plan in the same way that 'everyone going out and driving as fast as they can without restriction' is a good traffic plan."

          Well, for Darwinists, the idea is that the ones who survive the carnage learn the skills needed to barrel down twisted roads at 100mph without losing control and pass the techniques on to their kids and so on.

          IOW, these are the kinds of people who would support culls.

  5. chris121254

    if you want to help protect Net Neutrality you should support groups like ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press who are fighting to keep Net Neutrality.

    https://www.aclu.org/

    https://www.eff.org/

    https://www.freepress.net/

    also you can set them as your charity on https://smile.amazon.com/

    also write to your House Representative and senators

    http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

    https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state

    and the FCC

    https://www.fcc.gov/about/contact

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    This is what you voted for with Trump.

    The swamp has been drained....

    Now the reptiles are moving into your house instead.

    Is there any doubt the cable companies will be calling him Sweet Pai?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: This is what you voted for with Trump.

      Well... I don't think this is actually draining any swamp but it looks more like replacing one reptile with another.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: This is what you voted for with Trump.

        But I'd MUCH prefer iguanas to alligators.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: This is what you voted for with Trump.

          But I'd MUCH prefer iguanas to alligators.

          Both are cute. You are getting rattlesnakes instead I am afraid.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: This is what you voted for with Trump.

            Actually, there are ways to deal with rattlers. Main thing is you just gotta keep away from the sharp end. A little harder to wrestle a 10-foot American Alligator.

  7. Schultz
    Alert

    "local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations."

    Do I read this correctly? The cable companies dream of somehow 'zoning' the Internet? Bye bye World Wide net, you get free local data, properly supported by local franchising and ads and maybe you can buy into some nice long distance plan with low per-minute rates. Sounds like a nice business plan. You'll love your trusted and beloved local communications provider and you'll feel like you are back in the good old days before evil globalization took your self esteem.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: "local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations."

      Per minute? Try per kilobyte, rounded up to the nearest kB pef connection.

    2. chris121254

      Re: "local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations."

      In the end they wont be able to "zone" the internet, it would be very hard

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: "local franchising, zoning, permitting, and rights-of-way regulations."

        What about points of entry? Each country only has a few, don't they?

  8. Boohoo4u

    Google?

    Google can you restart the gig internet again...?

    We, the people, understand you can't stop being evil, but at least you aren't EVIL like cable companies.

    It turnings out that capital letters do make a difference...

  9. Buzzword

    Is there an option to NOT have cable?

    I'm not familiar with the intricacies of the U.S. cable TV market, but can't Americans just do like Brits, and (a) not have cable, and only watch local broadcast TV; and (b) stream other stuff over the internet, like Netflix or Hulu?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Is there an option to NOT have cable?

      Most markets only have three, maybe four or five local channels to choose from. IF their antenna is good enough on a sunny day and they can aim it in the right direction and so on. Remember that the US is A LOT larger than the UK.

      As for using Netflix or so on, that's a Catch-22. Most ISPs are ALSO TV providers and are either exclusive or have just one competitor who has an identical offer, so they get you either way. Take me. I basically have three choices: Cox, Verizon, and Charter. All three are total providers (TV, phone, and Internet) so are well aware of their clout.

      The way I see it, the media company realize they've got two years to wrest as much control from the government that they can so that there's no leverage for it to be taken back later on. Any bets on most the spectrum in the US being permanently sold off?

      1. Buzzword

        Re: Is there an option to NOT have cable?

        Ok, but can you get just phone + internet from Cox/Verizon/Charter? There's the option of satellite TV too (again I have no idea how good that is in the states; but it's very popular in the UK).

        I've had Netflix for a couple of years now, and the amount of broadcast TV that I now watch is perhaps two hours a month. With fewer people watching broadcast TV in general, the whole argument about who owns the set top box seems like two balding men fighting over a comb.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Is there an option to NOT have cable?

          They make it economically impractical to just get one from them. Bundling is about the only way to save money on them, forcing you into the closest thing to a Hobson's Choice they can. And satellite's now a duopoly of DirectTV (now owned by AT&T, vertical integration's already starting) and Dish. You don't want to know their rates, plus using satellite for Internet's considered a last resort because of speed of light issues.

  10. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    Congress is supposed to make laws, not bureaucrats

    I think the motive here is to put the responsibility where it belongs, and not in the hands of an FCC bureaucrat. If cable TV set top boxen need to be regulated, Congress can pass a law. Those guys ARE elected, after all... (and if the law simply instructs the FCC to implement it, then the right people will have done the right things for the right reasons, or so we hope)

    1. NBNnigel

      Re: Congress is supposed to make laws, not bureaucrats

      Yeah that sounds like a good idea. I'm sure those geniuses in congress are totally across the technicalities of cable TV set top boxes. While we're at it, we should also close down health and safety regulators, building regulators etc. and just get congress to legislate what temperature your local fish and chips shop should run their deep fryer at, and what nail gauge should be used to secure building fixtures to foundations etc.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Congress is supposed to make laws, not bureaucrats

      Where it should belong is in the hands of people who at least KNOW what's going on. Being a bureau specifically dedicated to communications (the first C), I would think people in the FCC would be more aware of the nuances of today's communications infrastructure than a Congressperson.

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