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NCTA

March 6, 2015


Industry News

The Expanding Consolidation of the Consumer Internet

March 6, 2015

Today the consumer Internet takes up over 50 percent of traffic in North America, coming from just 35 hyper-giant websites. Take a look at the graphic below and you’ll see how quickly the Internet has consolidated. And that the top five are pretty unsurprising.

[Click to Enlarge]

150304_consumer-internet

Matt Tooley

March 4, 2015


Broadband & Internet

Our Continued Contribution to the Future of Cybersecurity

March 4, 2015

As the global economy has moved into the digital age, every day we are reminded that the security of our vast digital networks and resources is of utmost importance. The cable industry takes this responsibility seriously and has been working closely with government agencies and other stakeholders to develop responsible protections.

One example is our role in the FCC’s Communications, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC). The goal of CSRIC is to provide recommendations to the FCC to ensure, among other things, that we ensure optimal security and reliability of communications systems, including the telecommunications, media, and public safety industries.

One CSRIC working group focuses on cybersecurity, with the goal to “develop voluntary mechanisms to provide macro-level assurance to the FCC and the public that communication providers are taking the necessary corporate and operational measures to manage cybersecurity risks across the enterprise.” This group will present its report on Cybersecurity Best Practices to the full CSRIC Council on March 18.

Prior to the CSRIC Council meeting and the pending report, last week the Comcast Center of Excellence for Security Innovation (CSI), in partnership with the University of Connecticut, sponsored a discussion on the evolving cyber threat landscape. The event featured a keynote address by Donna Dodson, chief of the Computer Security Division and the acting executive director of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence for NIST, who discussed how top leaders in academia, business and government are working together to “collect, reflect and connect” on the best ideas for securing critical infrastructure.

Dodson said that NIST takes a risk-management approach for cybersecurity and applies that to a business environment, recognizing that cybersecurity risks are instrumental to the decisions that businesses make every day. She also said that the multi-communications sector of CSRIC has provided a model that financial, energy and other sectors could adopt.

You can watch the full event here:

As someone who has spent a lot of time the last two years working with cable cybersecurity engineers on these important issues, it was great to hear that the work by the cable and communications sector is a model that can be adopted by the other sectors. As the largest broadband provider in the country, cable’s example on cybersecurity best practices not only works to protect millions of Internet users today, but will position the entire broadband economy for better security well into the future.

I look forward to the March 18 CSRIC Council meeting and delivering the comprehensive report that will be the culmination of a lot of hard work by the communications sector.

William Check, Ph.D.

March 3, 2015


Broadband & Internet

More Fallout from Title II Order: A New Rule That Could Degrade Internet Performance

March 3, 2015

One of the major concerns with the FCC’s recently adopted Title II order is that it goes far beyond reasonable efforts to ensure an open Internet, and potentially interferes with Internet operational issues that historically have been handled without any government involvement. The FCC hasn’t even published its rules yet, and already we are seeing chatter in Internet circles about FCC engineering judgments and unintended consequences.

One example is the wonky topic of packet loss. Buried in the FCC’s announcement is this sentence: “Disclosures must also include packet loss as a measure of network performance.” Packet loss occurs when one or more packets of data traveling across a computer network fail to reach their destination. While one might think that packet loss is an appropriate way to measure network performance (because the fewer the lost packets the better), the reality is more complex.

Network performance is impacted by a variety of factors that include latency, jitter, path length, number of available paths, path choice, number of concurrent Internet sessions sharing a link, and others. Measuring and reporting on packet loss in isolation doesn’t account for these other factors.

The FCC unilaterally deciding which Internet metrics ISPs should focus on is problematic, and a major departure from how the Internet was created and developed. In fact, standard Internet Protocol was wisely designed so that it’s free to drop some packets in favor of others based on the unique needs of certain types of data. As the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has recognized, the Internet supports multiple applications, where each application needs different delivery requirements. Some of these applications need reliable delivery while others work just fine with occasional packets being dropped. The IETF even developed a protocol called Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) that can be used by applications that cannot tolerate any of their data getting lost when a packet gets dropped.

Smoke

What has made the Internet great is the fact that application programmers could design their programs to work however they saw fit. These programmers figured out how to make their applications work over the Internet even if packets got dropped occasionally along the way.

A focus on packet loss has the potential to improperly incentivize ISPs to optimize their networks to this parameter. In an effort to minimize packet loss, equipment vendors and Internet engineers would inevitably add buffers to network interfaces to absorb packet bursts in order to avoid dropping packets.

While that may sound positive, it would actually degrade Internet performance since packets would now have to wait in long lines to go through the Internet. These long lines, or big buffers of packets, would also have the potential to break the TCP protocol, as TCP was also designed from the beginning knowing the network would drop packets when it reached capacity. TCP uses this as a signal to itself to slow down the transmission of data to reduce the likelihood of future packets from getting dropped. With a focus by the FCC on minimization of packet loss, many applications such as Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and gaming apps may no longer work as well as we all expect.

The FCC’s packet loss focus is also a major departure from the typical process for establishing Internet performance measures, and a complete repudiation of the collaborative approach to measurement that the Commission has followed so successfully in the Measuring Broadband America program. The IETF and its protocols have served the Internet well up until now, but the inclusion of packet loss as a measure of network performance has the potential to severely disrupt the Internet as we know it. As the FCC embarks on a new era of Internet regulation, it should recognize how harmful its actions can be and commit to leaving the engineering to the Internet Engineering Task Force.

William Check is the Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer at NCTA

Michael Powell

@chairmanpowell

February 28, 2015


Public Policy

I Support Net Neutrality, But That's Not What The FCC Just Did

@chairmanpowell

February 28, 2015

Originally published by CNET on February 27th, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission just approved one of the most expansive regulatory actions in the agency’s history. In one stroke, the commission has tainted its independence, radically departed from a decades-old bipartisan national policy of not regulating the Internet and expansively broadened its regulatory power without direction from Congress.

On Thursday, the FCC passed Net neutrality regulation that reclassifies broadband as a Title II service, akin to the old telephone network — a sweeping move that has significant regulatory implications, not just for Internet service providers, but for the entire broadband market including edge providers, middle-mile operators, and backbone facilities that together make up the interconnected networks of the Internet.

The commission justified these measures under the banner of preserving Net neutrality; yet it has gone well beyond that reasonable objective. In fact, there is little disagreement over the substance of open Internet principles. The cable industry has lived by the Four Freedoms that I laid out as FCC chairman roughly a decade ago — freedom to access content, to run applications, to attach devices and to obtain service plan information. We further accepted the FCC’s effort in 2010 to adopt rules reflecting these freedoms and sought to live by this policy rather than litigate. And since then, we have faithfully adhered to these important consumer protections in building an open Internet even though a more recent court decision threw out two of the three rules.

The FCC has said it wants to protect an open Internet, but its actions extend well beyond Net neutrality. Instead, it is ushering in a backward-looking regulatory regime that is unsuited to the dynamic and innovative Internet. Thursday’s vote allows the FCC to regulate rates, set terms and conditions of business relationships, and dramatically increase the cost of network deployment. It also gives state and federal governments new opportunities to impose taxes and fees on consumer bills.

What will this mean for American consumers? In the short term, the Internet will not work differently. We will continue to enjoy the same open Internet experience that we do today. But the price we will pay over time for this radical shift in regulation will be severe. Consumers are likely to see higher bills from new taxes and fees and expenses related to regulatory compliance, along with a host of unintended consequences. They will wait longer to receive faster next-generation services. Internet providers, which spend massive capital to dig up streets, hang wires and connect homes, will see this intense chain of activity subjected to regulatory second-guessing that will slow the dynamic improvements we all desire. And garage startups, which today assert with confidence that the new regulation doesn’t apply to them, will soon find themselves caught in the government’s ever-expanding web.

Internet evangelists frequently promote the virtues of innovation without permission. We now move to a world that turns that on its head. Networks may be less exciting than new software apps, but they too require innovation, evolution and revolution. That process now is subject to constant bureaucratic review, political considerations, and collateral attack by competitors.

The FCC is attempting to sell its action out of both sides of its mouth. To one audience it brags it is adopting the strongest rules possible, while simultaneously trying to assure others its plan is a light-touch, modern regime with no government entanglement in the market. It is dream-weaving to suggest that a regulatory agency, having built a new regulatory platform, will not expand its intervention with time. It always happens.

Today’s commission cannot anticipate the actions of future commissions that will now have regulatory weapons never before available. The FCC cannot fully control the actions of state taxing authorities that will seek to expand their reach. It is naive in not appreciating that competitors will now have a new forum to slow, impede or attack competitors. Large regulatory systems more often serve as fences that keep new competitors out, thereby strengthening the market advantage of incumbents. And the FCC moves Internet policy from a framework of cooperation to one that is adversarial and highly partisan, resulting in more litigation and court decisions on how the market works.

Thursday’s action begins a new chapter of competing visions for the Internet — one where government regulators play a central role in directing how the Internet evolves, versus one in which entrepreneurs, private enterprise and consumers expressing their preferences set the terms for the future. The latter has a superior record in delivering value to consumers. The former has repeatedly failed.

The FCC unfortunately has chosen a path that will lead to prolonged litigation, marketplace uncertainty and unintended consequences that could stretch throughout the entire Internet ecosystem. This is a seminal transformation, but it will not be the last word. We regrettably will be forced to seek redress in other branches of government, and the promise of permanent Net neutrality protections will be deferred to another day.

NCTA

February 25, 2015


Public Policy

The Top Five Ways Title II Hurts Consumers

February 25, 2015

Reclassifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II raises all kinds of concerns, but perhaps none are more important than the potential for Title II to harm everyday broadband users. Here are the top five (or should it be bottom five?) ways Title II hurts consumers: Title II opens the door to FCC micromanagement of…

NCTA

February 25, 2015


Public Policy

Michael Powell on Fox Business Discussing Latest FCC Moves [VIDEO]

February 25, 2015

NCTA President & CEO Michael Powell was interviewed yesterday at Fox Business News, discussing the future of the Internet and the FCC’s role in regulating Internet policy. With only days before the FCC votes on its latest net neutrality plan, Michael again addressed the need for better Internet policy. He notes that the Title II solution likely to be…

NCTA

February 24, 2015


Public Policy

Michael Powell on CNBC Talking About the Future of Internet Regulation [VIDEO]

February 24, 2015

We’re just a few days away from the FCC’s vote on new Internet regulations. NCTA President & CEO Michael Powell was on CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning discussing how the FCC’s proposal is likely to lead to litigation and create years of uncertainty. Powell goes on to say how we can have strong net neutrality protections…