Net Neutrality

First Net Neutrality Complaint Hits TWC

The first net neutrality complaint is officially in.

Commercial Network Services (CNS), a web and application hosting company based in San Diego, has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) for violating the new US net neutrality rules. According to the filing, TWC has refused to provide free peering access to CNS at three public peering exchanges. As a result, CNS says its traffic is being delivered over slower, more congested routes, which means its customers are suffering degraded application performance.

CNS argues that TWC is effectively throttling Internet service and offering prioritized access only to those network operators willing to pay for it. However, both the "no throttling" and "no paid prioritization" requirements in the recently enacted Open Internet rules refer to last-mile Internet connections, not to network exchange points. The FCC has said it will examine interconnection disputes, but it has not yet decided what should and should not be allowed in interconnection agreements.

Specifically, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in February that the agency will "create a construct on which to build a record" of behavior on peering agreements, and that it will then analyze that record to determine whether there is a need for government intervention. (See FCC Vote Shows Net Neutrality Strains.)

For more fixed broadband market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated Gigabit/Broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

While the CNS complaint does not realistically address outright violations of the Open Internet Order, it is an interesting test case of the FCC's new authority to review peering disputes. CNS has made clear that it hasn't asked Time Warner Cable for transit service, which would involve using a connection with TWC to access other networks also linked to the broadband provider at other exchange points. (CNS would presumably be willing to pay for transit.) Instead, CNS says it only wants direct access to TWC customers who pay the company directly for Internet service. (See also Interconnect Deals Bear Net Neutrality's Stamp.)

Time Warner Cable has already told numerous media outlets it expects the FCC to reject the CNS complaint as being outside the scope of the Open Internet rules. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) also released the following statement:

"This wholly predictable complaint confirms the harms created when the government intervenes in healthy markets and encourages disgruntled businesses to seek regulatory rents. We encourage the FCC to quickly reject this overt attempt to invite government rate regulation of a market that is robust, competitive and has flourished for decades without government interference."

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

brooks7 6/25/2015 | 9:50:14 AM
Re: FCC should vote in favor of CNS Private,

Did you read the complaint or just make your own up out of whole cloth?

PrivateP09647 6/25/2015 | 12:55:21 AM
FCC should vote in favor of CNS The situation is clear; CNS pays its ISP (TWC) for internet access.  Every single user is a customer of an ISP has to pay their own access to CNS's webcam streams--users are also likely to be customers of TWC.

TWC is interfering with data where congestion is unlikely with modern fiber optic interconnections.  Any congestion is artificial and created to funnel customers to more expensive artificial products.

TWC should limit itself to doing the job it is hired to do: Provide internet access and allowing routers to do what they are programmed to do--distribute traffic evenly and efficiently.  Instead, they get tangled up in the expensive process of interfering with data.

Still, CNS and other sites are reluctant to see beyond their own noses.  Interference with data is easily solved by making every connection secure virtual private network connection with users.  This will effectively compress, encrypt and tunnel data directly to its users.  VPN connections receive priority across the internet.  Since data cannot be inspected, it travels more quickly and more efficiently.

Emergency services, law enforcement, hospitals, and the banking industry rely heavily on VPNs to protect their confidential data.  I doubt an ISP can legally interfere or invade privacy by reading the data that is sent explicitly as private.  The benefits and advantages of creating a VPN connection with clients to a website are all too clear.
brooks7 6/24/2015 | 6:26:05 PM
Re: Evidence? I doubt there will be any evidence collected and directly made available.  The Complaint that was lodged is directly outside the Order.  The FCC was very clear that peering was not covered.

This would be like the FBI being asked to investigate the Guiding Hand Social Club in Eve Online.


mhhf1ve 6/24/2015 | 3:42:59 PM
Re: Evidence? The transparency of this process will be the most interesting part, I think. IIRC, I've seen other investigations where the key data in the records are not released "for competitive reasons" -- and then it's hard for outsiders to really know what happened and why.
DHagar 6/24/2015 | 12:19:53 PM
Re: Evidence? thebulk, that makes sense.  It will be revealing to see where they do draw the lines and how much they choose to regulate.  I imagine they will view this very carefully as to setting the markers.
Duh! 6/24/2015 | 12:02:44 PM
Re: Evidence? The FCC has a process for everything.

If I understand correctly, the Enforcement Bureau will conduct an investigation, with support from the Wireline Bureau and others. I believe there will be a public record. They'll then make a recommendation to the Commissioners for further action (or not). 

The Enforcement Bureau deals with frivolous complaints all the time, and if they find this one to be in that category, they'll dispose of it quickly.   I have the impression that the Commission will hesitate to wade into an interconnection dispute without first opening a proceeding to establish a public record.

Again, IANAL.
thebulk 6/23/2015 | 11:21:52 PM
Re: Evidence? Its interesting that the protectons do not extend to exchange points. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. And of course i think we are all looking to see how much transparency will follow. 
DHagar 6/23/2015 | 10:43:13 PM
Re: Evidence? mhhf1ve, interesting points.  This case appears to have several landmines associated with it.  If they aren't careful, it will have unintended consequences, which is what msilbey is pointing out.  I think that is going to be the problem with managing this regulation - it really doesn't make sense.

Any predictions on if they will take the case and justify their rulings with good transparency?
mhhf1ve 6/23/2015 | 9:28:06 PM
Evidence? I think it will be interesting to see how public the evidence for this complaint will be -- if the FCC doesn't reject it outright. What kind of records will need to be released to make a ruling on this complaint? 
Sign In