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Mozilla, Reddit, Vimeo, And Others Call On FCC To Publicize Its Zero-Rating Plans

Mozilla, Reddit, Vimeo, DuckDuckGo, Kickstarter, and tens of other companies sent an open letter to the FCC, urging it to adopt some clear and transparent rules against zero-rating, as the telecommunications companies continue to push the limits of net neutrality rules passed last year.

Over four million individuals sent comments to the FCC last year, with the vast majority supporting the passing of strong net neutrality rules. The new rules were needed to ensure that the internet remains fair for everyone so that the big telecommunications companies don’t try to become gatekeepers and start charging consumers and companies for access to each other.

The net neutrality rules passed with almost everything the advocates wanted, although barely. If passing the rules was difficult enough, keeping them alive and actually enforcing them was always going to be much more difficult.

Soon after the rules passed, AT&T launched a lawsuit against the FCC, trying to overturn all or at least some of the new rules. However, even if the FCC wins that ongoing lawsuit, there seems to be a severe lack of enforcement for those rules right now, whether it’s because the FCC is unwilling to enforce those strong rules or because it’s simply waiting to see what the Courts decide first. Meanwhile, the big telecommunications companies are moving ahead with their zero-rating services, which Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, called "positive discrimination."

When the FCC passed the net neutrality rules, the agency refused to take a stand on the zero-rating issue because it thought the issue was still too controversial at the time. The FCC also decided to deal with this issue on a case-by-case basis.

The group of companies that signed today’s letter want the FCC to either ban zero-rating or at least make it clear what is allowed and what isn’t so that everyone abides by the same rules. The companies also called on the FCC to open a public process to inform people of its zero-rating plans so that they can comment on them, much like they did last year on the net neutrality proposals.

Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu. 

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  • bit_user
    Had to visit another site to find a definition of "zero-rating". I gather it's when certain content or content-providers are exempt from data rates or caps.
    Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    I gather it's when certain content or content-providers are exempt from data rates or caps.
    Yes, that's right bit_user: when a person accesses certain things or connect to a specific site/service, the data used is not counted against the person's data cap.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    We've had zero rating services in Australia for years, but we've also had data caps since dialup was common, so they were quite useful. These days it's usually only mobile data caps which are meagre enough to be a problem, so many of the zero rating services for fixed line connections have been retired.
    Reply
  • vudtmere
    "The new rules were needed to ensure that the internet remains fair for everyone so that the big telecommunications companies don’t try to become gatekeepers and start charging consumers and companies for access to each other."

    That is an opinion and a false one at that. Government regulations have been proven to do more damage than good at almost every turn through history. It was a government wet dream to regulate the internet. I highly doubt it was for the benefit of anyone other than the major political players. These "rules" will be utilized to foster one more government monopoly.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    18024609 said:
    Government regulations have been proven to do more damage than good at almost every turn through history.
    At the risk of feeding a troll, I'm going to have to disagree with this.

    In fact, I'll counter your position with an opposite one that's almost as extreme. I'd say the substantial majority of consumer protections, governing such areas as food, pharmaceuticals, hazardous and toxic chemicals, air pollution, worker safety, aviation, and automotive safety, have saved millions of lives and prevented even more from suffering and injury. Chinese are jealous of our food safety record, and pay large amounts of money to import food & nutritional supplements from the US.

    Ironically, it's partly because of government regulations designed to keep you safe and help markets stay competitive that you have the luxury of worrying about such abstract matters as government overreach. Otherwise, you might have some real problems to worry about.

    And here's a challenge: if government regulation is such a bad thing, then there ought to be a country with virtually none, and that country + its people + its businesses should be absolutely thriving! Where is there such a country?

    What we need is smart regulation, that's the result of an open and transparent process, (ideally) untainted by undue influence from parties that don't have the people's interests at heart. Where we can probably agree is that regulation should be the minimum needed to get the job done. Less & simpler regulation is cheaper to implement, and easier to enforce. I certainly wouldn't argue that the USA has gotten this exactly right, but I think the FCC has certainly exceeded my expectations, of late.
    Reply
  • vudtmere
    18026963 said:
    18024609 said:
    Government regulations have been proven to do more damage than good at almost every turn through history.
    At the risk of feeding a troll, I'm going to have to disagree with this.

    In fact, I'll counter your position with an opposite one that's almost as extreme. I'd say the substantial majority of consumer protections, governing such areas as food, pharmaceuticals, hazardous and toxic chemicals, air pollution, worker safety, aviation, and automotive safety, have saved millions of lives and prevented even more from suffering and injury. Chinese are jealous of our food safety record, and pay large amounts of money to import food & nutritional supplements from the US.

    Ironically, it's partly because of government regulations designed to keep you safe and help markets stay competitive that you have the luxury of worrying about such abstract matters as government overreach. Otherwise, you might have some real problems to worry about.

    And here's a challenge: if government regulation is such a bad thing, then there ought to be a country with virtually none, and that country + its people + its businesses should be absolutely thriving! Where is there such a country?

    What we need is smart regulation, that's the result of an open and transparent process, (ideally) untainted by undue influence from parties that don't have the people's interests at heart. Where we can probably agree is that regulation should be the minimum needed to get the job done. Less & simpler regulation is cheaper to implement, and easier to enforce. I certainly wouldn't argue that the USA has gotten this exactly right, but I think the FCC has certainly exceeded my expectations, of late.

    Just a couple facts:

    -Governments kill. They are responsible for an estimated 262 millions deaths in the 20th century alone.

    -Capitalism (freedom) has lifted billions out of poverty, cured disease, created the technology we rely on.

    -Governments create nothing. They leech from private enterprise.

    -Politicians are corrupt. Even if 1-2% are not corrupt you will still end up with 98-99% policies developed completely by special interests and corrupt politicians. It is totally naive to believe that policies are developed for the people.
    -The internet has thrived without regulation. The American phone system which is heavily regulated by the FCC is an abomination. The internet will be no different once heavily regulated. Many top gear developers (ie Cisco, Juniper, etc) have lobbied heavily against the regulation, because they have predicted that companies will begin to invest less in infrastructure as regulations grow. No doubt that have predicted they will lose millions, if not billions due to this. And as internet users we will ultimately lose as the internet infrastructure degrades.

    -Only foolish people believe that the internet access is actually degrading due to lack of regulation. Internet access/network technology has grown with indisputable intensity while unregulated. There is absolutely no reason why entities that completely tie up the lines shouldn't have to pay more than those that don't. Do you think people who drive semi trucks should pay the same for fuel as those driving compact cars? This is effectively the argument for the FCC's regulation.

    Reply
  • bit_user
    18028461 said:
    Just a couple facts:

    -Governments kill. They are responsible for an estimated 262 millions deaths in the 20th century alone.

    -Capitalism (freedom) has lifted billions out of poverty, cured disease, created the technology we rely on.

    -Governments create nothing. They leech from private enterprise.
    Wow, this is simplistic, completely lacking nuance, and just plain wrong, respectively.

    You suggest that because governments sometimes do great wrongs, and capitalism has produced so much good, that one is always bad and the other is always good. It's not that simple. Many capitalist market participants (both individuals and corporations) have committed wrongs, such as the exploration of workers, pollution of the environment, corruption the political system, and harm of consumers. And sometimes they rig markets, so they can profit without providing much or any value.

    And, governments create nothing? Roads, bridges, ports, power plants, zoning and road networks, technical and industrial standards, not to mention most of the basic and applied research on which our modern age is built? Sorry, that's not nothing. And you credit capitalism with creating technology and curing disease, but the bulk of that research is government-funded. Corporations are good at taking applied research (which they sometimes fund) and turning it into marketable products. They almost never fund or engage in basic research.

    But I'm still a capitalist. Why? Because capitalism is unparalleled in its ability to effectively channel resources. It's also among the best ways of motivating and inspiring creativity.

    The worthwhile questions to ask are: why do governments and corporations do bad things, and how can we maximize the good they each do, while minimizing the bad?

    18028461 said:
    -The internet has thrived without regulation.
    Only because the business models & supporting technology took a while to develop to a point where ISPs could make more money by providing inferior service.

    18028461 said:
    The American phone system which is heavily regulated by the FCC is an abomination.
    It had its good and bad points. The fact that you could call anyone, anywhere was good. And there are still parts of the country where they only have phone service. The fact that they even got that is good. But the telco lobby is strong, and largely responsible for the lack of technological innovation, IMO.

    18028461 said:
    Many top gear developers (ie Cisco, Juniper, etc) have lobbied heavily against the regulation, because they have predicted that companies will begin to invest less in infrastructure as regulations grow. No doubt that have predicted they will lose millions, if not billions due to this. And as internet users we will ultimately lose as the internet infrastructure degrades.
    That's not surprising. They just want to sell expensive traffic shaping & filtering equipment. Not to mention deep packet inspection to spy on your internet usage, so ISPs can sell marketing data on you. Gear which doesn't do those things is much cheaper. Since consumers ultimately pay the price for the equipment, I have no sympathy for the unprincipled equipment makers you mentioned or their investors.

    I don't buy the idea that the internet will somehow degrade. What will happen is that ISPs have to compete based on only speed and price, so we'll get faster speeds for less $$$ (once you account for the marketing revenue and content bribes that ISPs are losing).

    18028461 said:
    There is absolutely no reason why entities that completely tie up the lines shouldn't have to pay more than those that don't. Do you think people who drive semi trucks should pay the same for fuel as those driving compact cars?
    We agree on that.

    18028461 said:
    This is effectively the argument for the FCC's regulation.
    When did they ever say that? As far as I'm aware, ISPs are still free to offer different speed tiers and data caps. If you know differently, please cite the source.
    Reply
  • vudtmere
    18028461 said:
    Just a couple facts:

    -Governments kill. They are responsible for an estimated 262 millions deaths in the 20th century alone.

    -Capitalism (freedom) has lifted billions out of poverty, cured disease, created the technology we rely on.

    -Governments create nothing. They leech from private enterprise.
    Wow, this is simplistic, completely lacking nuance, and just plain wrong, respectively.

    You suggest that because governments sometimes do great wrongs, and capitalism has produced so much good, that one is always bad and the other is always good. It's not that simple. Many capitalist market participants (both individuals and corporations) have committed wrongs, such as the exploration of workers, pollution of the environment, corruption the political system, and harm of consumers. And sometimes they rig markets, so they can profit without providing much or any value.

    And, governments create nothing? Roads, bridges, ports, power plants, zoning and road networks, technical and industrial standards, not to mention most of the basic and applied research on which our modern age is built? Sorry, that's not nothing. And you credit capitalism with creating technology and curing disease, but the bulk of that research is government-funded. Corporations are good at taking applied research (which they sometimes fund) and turning it into marketable products. They almost never fund or engage in basic research.

    But I'm still a capitalist. Why? Because capitalism is unparalleled in its ability to effectively channel resources. It's also among the best ways of motivating and inspiring creativity.

    The worthwhile questions to ask are: why do governments and corporations do bad things, and how can we maximize the good they each do, while minimizing the bad?

    18028461 said:
    -The internet has thrived without regulation.
    Only because the business models & supporting technology took a while to develop to a point where ISPs could make more money by providing inferior service.

    18028461 said:
    The American phone system which is heavily regulated by the FCC is an abomination.
    It had its good and bad points. The fact that you could call anyone, anywhere was good. And there are still parts of the country where they only have phone service. The fact that they even got that is good. But the telco lobby is strong, and largely responsible for the lack of technological innovation, IMO.

    18028461 said:
    Many top gear developers (ie Cisco, Juniper, etc) have lobbied heavily against the regulation, because they have predicted that companies will begin to invest less in infrastructure as regulations grow. No doubt that have predicted they will lose millions, if not billions due to this. And as internet users we will ultimately lose as the internet infrastructure degrades.
    That's not surprising. They just want to sell expensive traffic shaping & filtering equipment. Not to mention deep packet inspection to spy on your internet usage, so ISPs can sell marketing data on you. Gear which doesn't do those things is much cheaper. Since consumers ultimately pay the price for the equipment, I have no sympathy for the unprincipled equipment makers you mentioned or their investors.

    I don't buy the idea that the internet will somehow degrade. What will happen is that ISPs have to compete based on only speed and price, so we'll get faster speeds for less $$$ (once you account for the marketing revenue and content bribes that ISPs are losing).

    18028461 said:
    There is absolutely no reason why entities that completely tie up the lines shouldn't have to pay more than those that don't. Do you think people who drive semi trucks should pay the same for fuel as those driving compact cars?
    We agree on that.

    18028461 said:
    This is effectively the argument for the FCC's regulation.
    When did they ever say that? As far as I'm aware, ISPs are still free to offer different speed tiers and data caps. If you know differently, please cite the source.


    It is clear that I can say nothing to change your mind. Keep reading and keep an open mind. I would suggest start with some Murray Rothbard and maybe Henry Hazlitt.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    18046818 said:
    It is clear that I can say nothing to change your mind. Keep reading and keep an open mind.
    Well, if you define an open mind as one that takes ideas on their merits, without prejudice, then I think I do pretty well. I actually like trying on different ideas, seeing if they make sense or finding the potential holes in their logic or supporting data. Among my friends, co-workers, and extended family, I'm exposed to most political & religious points of view. I get about half my news from domestic and half from international sources. I've seen and heard a fair amount from both right-wing and left-wing TV, radio, and internet news, including enough paranoid fringe stuff that I sometimes watch or read out of bemusement. I watch and listen to a fair number of documentaries and university lectures, as well. You could reasonably call me a news junkie.

    Basically, it comes down to this: the more extreme the position someone takes, the better their evidence should be. You took a very extreme position that doesn't even withstand the common sense test. The average person can readily see it's not true, if they think about it for even a little bit.

    But there's another measure for ideologies, which is the existence proof. If something were so bad or so good, then either it shouldn't exist (or should've had obviously poor outcomes) or it should've been massively successful, if not the dominant approach in the world.

    Extreme ideas can be seductive, but history has shown that ideological purity only makes good revolutionaries. Ideologues have an almost perfect track record of failure, when it comes to governance. This makes me especially skeptical of any ideology claiming to have all the answers.

    Even so, I see some worthy ideas from all sides, that haven't necessarily received the proper attention in the media & popular discourse.
    Reply