Clyburn Supports Net Neutrality Order with Reservations

Clyburn Supports Net Neutrality Order with Reservations


In a statement released yesterday, Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn indicated her overall support of the FCC’s order on net neutrality, but expressed areas where she believed the new rules could be strengthened.

Ms. Clyburn, a Democrat and the sole African American on the regulatory panel, expressed her concerns that the rules do not extend to wireless broadband access providers. “There is evidence in our record that some communities, namely African American and Hispanic, use and rely upon mobile Internet access much more than other socio-economic groups,” Ms. Clyburn said.

According to an earlier report by Pew, 59% of all adult Americans go online using a cell phone or lap top computer.  Sixty-four percent of African Americans, however, go online via wireless devices. In addition, while 80% of whites have a cell phone, a higher proportion of African Americans, 87%, have cell phones.

Ms. Clyburn also expressed her preference for a total ban on pay-for-priority arrangements.  Pay-for-priority arrangements allow content providers to pay broadband access providers for the privilege of insuring that the content provider’s data is sent ahead of unpaid traffic. Where these arrangements are challenged, there will have to be a demonstration that the arrangements are not harmful to the public interest and innovation, Ms. Clyburn noted.

Ms. Clyburn raised the issue of equity, particularly as it regards open access to all end users. While appreciating the order’s requirement for open access to residents, small businesses, schools, libraries, coffee shops, and bookstores, Ms. Clyburn noted that the order may not have gone far enough to ensure access to end users who do not fall into these categories.

Reclassification of broadband access services as a telecommunications service was left out of the order as expected by those who observe the FCC.  Ms. Clyburn appeared to hint at this omission, expressing her preference for the FCC’s legal authority over broadband Internet access.  Ms. Clyburn acknowledged that the legal fight over the FCC’s authority on broadband access is just beginning.

A clash with the Congress may be around the corner as well. In reaction to yesterday’s FCC vote, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed his intent, via legislation, to turn back what he terms as the Obama administration’s attempt to take over the Internet.  Ironically, the FCC’s decision to exclude a reclassification of broadband access as a telecommunications service may temper attempts to implement legislation to overturn yesterday’s order.

Ms. Clyburn added that while the rules may not extend to wireless broadband providers, these providers do not in essence get a free pass when it comes to adhering to the requirements that fixed wire line providers operate under.


  1. [quote]expressed her concerns that the rules do not extend to wireless broadband access providers. [/quote]

    Does anyone find it ironic that the past INDICTMENT called "the Digital Divide" where "Minority Communities" have no access to the Internet has now scaled to a DIFFERENT indictment, namely that in as much as "The Least Of These" now use wireless at a greater rate than does the "Majority Community"……..the fact that the FCC has not regulated the wireless space in kind is an INJURY to the "Minority"?

    No where does Commissioner Clyburn speak of the fact that wireless spectrum is a shared resource. When the kid sitting next to you is using his T-Mobile data card to stream a high resolution game this draws away from YOUR ability to download using your T-Mobile smart phone. Thus the wireless carrier had better have traffic management because YOU are going to call them to complain about your throughput.

    In regards to Ms Clyburn's comments on "The Fast Lane". This too makes sense only to those who are not familiar with the architecture of the Internet. Without the use of "Content Distribution Networks" such as Akamai where content providers PAY to move high bandwidth content closer to the end user thereby making it faster – to not have this overlay architecture will lead to an inefficient use of resources.

    With all due respect – I would love to hear Ms Clyburn provide a more technical summary of her viewpoint of how these "fast lanes" and "slow lanes" work.

    • The mplications of the aforementioned factoid on wireless Internet access are vague. While it describes African-Americans’ slightly higher use of mobile devices to access the ‘net, it’s likely that the use of such devices are our only means of net access, at speeds much slower than fixed-wire services, and with less functionality than PCs. Second, the digital divide encompasses more than Internet access.

      The Internet is better described as a limited resource, meaning there’s a finite amount of total bandwidth a given ISP can distribute over its network at a specific point in time. However, those limits are being constantly expanded by wireless and fixed-wire services — as evidenced by Verizon Wireless’ recent 4G LTE announcement. ISPs also have the option under the FCC’s order to market tiered data plans, which IMO, properly place the responsibility for high data consumption on those whom consume the most data. It’s presumptuous to state every subscriber is consuming equivalent amounts of data all the time.

    • The big concession to the wireless providers is they remain exempt from providing interoperable devices and software. American consumers do not have the choice of, say, an iPhone running Blackberry’s OS on Sprint’s network on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. The lack of convergence may be a hindrance to innovation and entrepreneurship.

      • Mr Tucker:

        In Europe they have only the GSM standard. They also have regulations which "free" the device from the grasp of the carrier.

        Unfortunately the "hardware subsidy" that we Americans enjoy (the $600 iPhone can be purchased for $99 with a 2 year contract) does not exist. While the new phone in Europe is unlocked you must shell out the full $600 out of your pocket.

        The debate is between the carriers seeking "predictability" in their subscriber base – locking in 2 year contracts as it costs several thousands of dollars to acquire one new customer via the marketing spend VERSUS providing "freedom" to the consumer to move from one network to the next.

        In the cellular world before 4G (LTE) the incompatible standards between CDMA (Sprint/Verizon) and GSM (AT&T and T-Mobile) made it impossible for one phone to go on the incompatible network. Verizon's "World Phone" has a CDMA radio for domestic USA and a GSM radio for international travel.

        As everyone converges to LTE for their 4G (except Sprint who chose WiMAX) the standard will be the same across company but now the spectrum will be the inhibitor.

        Verizon purchased 700Mhz spectrum that is a different range than what AT&T purchased. T-Mobile chose HSPA+ for its "4G".

        Keep in mind, however, that these incompatible networks also has prevented massive mergers as the brutal game of consolidation has brought us to the "Big 4" (Though Sprint is anemic)

        With all of that said the "Least Of These" will have full 4G coverage. Ms Clyburn need not worry.

  2. I'm familiar with the industry's history, CS.

    All which you've described could have been addressed by the FCC including in the NBP a requirement for the mobilenets to meet an interoperability standard in the future, much like what already exists for other services and parts of the spectrum. Our gov't agencies tend to defer to the private market on technology decisions — perhaps at times to consumers' detriment. The point being is for many people, net neutrality is more than a traffic management issue.

    The lack of convergence among devices marketed by mobilenets hasn't prevented mergers as you claim. Sprint swallowed Nextel, remember? Today's AT&T wireless is the result of several mobilenet operators, including Cingular. Again, it's unclear whether this activity has really resulted in a net benefit to consumers, under whose license these companies operate.