Obama Urges Strong Net Neutrality Rules

President Obama today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take up the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality. It represented a rare step by the White House into the policy-setting of an independent agency, reported Reuters.

“An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life,” said President Obama at the White House today, strongly supporting the concept of “net neutrality“.

Obama is calling for the FCC to enact four rules:

  • A “no blocking” rule where ISPs can’t block lawful Internet traffic.
  • A “no throttling” rule banning the intentional slow down some content.
  • Increased transparency around how ISPs connect to consumers that would potentially address interconnection deals like the ones between Netflix, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast.
  • A “no paid prioritization” rule, where no service would be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee.

“By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” said President Obama.

Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.

The FCC on May 15 launched a rulemaking seeking public comment on how best to protect and promote an open Internet. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is designed to ensure robust, fast and equal Internet access to providers and users.

At the crux of the debate over Net neutrality is Title II of the Telecommunications Act, explains C/Net. The section, which is more than 100 pages long, regulates how common carriers must conduct business across all forms of communication in order to act “in the public interest.” Net neutrality supporters say that the language is vague and could be used to sidestep a free and open Internet.

In a press release, Chairman Wheeler today said the President’s statement is an important and welcome addition to the record of the Open Internet proceeding.

“Like the President, I believe that the Internet must remain an open platform for free expression, innovation, and economic growth. We both oppose Internet fast lanes. The Internet must not advantage some to the detriment of others. We cannot allow broadband networks to cut special deals to prioritize Internet traffic and harm consumers, competition and innovation.”

“…Keeping the Internet open includes both the Section 706 option and the Title II reclassification. Recently, the Commission staff began exploring “hybrid” approaches, proposed by some members of Congress and leading advocates of net neutrality, which would combine the use of both Title II and Section 706. The more deeply we examined the issues around the various legal options, the more it has become plain that there is more work to do.”

Public internet groups have vigorously opposed Wheeler’s proposal, which prohibited Internet service providers from blocking any content, but allowed deals where content providers would pay ISPs to ensure smooth delivery of traffic, reports Reuters.

Reaction was mixed, with netneutrality supporters largely supporting Obama’s stance and carriers opposed.

  • The Electronic Freedom Foundation said the White House Gets It Right On Net Neutrality.
  • The Internet Association — whose members include Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and others — had previously remained largely mum, said it was in full support of the president’s plan.
  • AT&T’s statement today said, “Today’s announcement by the White House, if acted upon by the FCC, would be a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet and to U.S. national interests.
  • Verizon’s statement said, “Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation.”
  • The CTIA and its members said, “…applying last century’s public utility regulation to the dynamic mobile broadband ecosystem puts at risk the investment and innovation which characterizes America’s world-leading $196 billion wireless industry.
  • Comcast’s statement by VP David Cohen said, “To attempt to impose a full-blown Title II regime now, when the classification of cable broadband has always been as an information service, would reverse nearly a decade of precedent, including findings by the Supreme Court that this classification was proper. This would be a radical reversal that would harm investment and innovation, as today’s immediate stock market reaction demonstrates.”

We’re going to get sued,” says a senior FCC official to the Washington Post. “But we want to be on firm legal footing. The litigators in the agency want to be sure to do everything to minimize the legal risk.”

The Verge has gathered additional reactions and TechMeme has more links.

Hotspot 2.0 Streamlines New User Accounts

The Wi-Fi Alliance has expanded its Passpoint program, which provides seamless connection and WPA2 security, to include a streamlined method to establish new user accounts and connect Wi-Fi-only devices.

The WiFi Alliance is a non-profit trade organization formed to provide interoperability between device and promote the benefits of WiFi. The new features in Passpoint are particularly valuable to mobile and fixed operators, and open opportunities for other sectors, says the organization.

“Wi-Fi-first” business models have provided a disruptive counterpoint to traditional operator services, and retailers are deploying Wi-Fi as a way to improve customer engagement, says The Alliance. Wi-Fi roaming agreements among service providers are emerging as an important complement to traditional cellular roaming.

“Enthusiasm for Passpoint from both mobile and fixed operators continues to mount, and the strategic value of Passpoint extends into new segments as well,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “What makes the new features exciting is that they empower businesses to realize the powerful commercial impact that Wi-Fi can offer by giving them the ability to engage with customers on a new platform in a secure and streamlined fashion.”

Passpoint was launched in 2012 and is based on Wi-Fi Alliance’s Hotspot 2.0 Technical Specification. Fixed and mobile operators, including Boingo, Orange, SK Telecom, and Time Warner Cable. More than 20 operators are now participating in Wi-Fi roaming trials based on Passpoint.

The Passpoint program expansion builds on its foundational authentication and security mechanisms, adding features that make Passpoint more versatile and scalable:

  • Online sign-up and immediate account provisioning: Passpoint now enables a streamlined process to establish a new user account at the point of access.
  • Secure registration: The process of establishing a new account or connecting a second device takes place securely.
  • Operator policy: Passpoint now includes the capability for service providers to distribute their specific subscriber policies, such as which networks to join and in what order of preference.

The Passpoint certification program test suite includes support from Aruba Networks, Broadcom, Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm Atheros, and Ruckus Wireless.

New Outdoor & Indoor 11ac Access Points from Ruckus

Ruckus Wireless announced today the expansion of its line of Smart 802.11ac ZoneFlex access points with the launch of four new models.

The expanded lineup includes the new Ruckus ZoneFlex R500 (2×2:2) and ZoneFlex R600 (3×3:3) indoor dual-band (2.4/5 GHz) mid-range models.

The two new Ruckus outdoor APs are the ZoneFlex T300 Series with 802.11ac, the ZoneFlex T300e omnidirectional, which includes support for optional external 5 GHz antennas, and the ZoneFlex T301s, a 120 degree sectorized beam model with a sector adaptive antenna.

The dual-band indoor and outdoor 802.11ac APs integrate patented Ruckus BeamFlex+ technology for better performance and interference mitigation, as well as ChannelFly for predictive channel selection based on real-time capacity analysis. Ruckus says the new outdoor ZoneFlex T300 Series APs feature the industry’s smallest and lightest form factors.

“Our new indoor, mid-range APs are exceptional, high-performance options for deployments in small to mid-size retail businesses, branch offices of large enterprises, hotel common areas, classrooms and libraries, delivering best-in-class performance and reliability at competitive prices,” said Greg Beach, vice president of Product Management. “Our ZoneFlex T300 outdoor APs provide more flexibility for customers desiring carrier-class, high-capacity, high-density outdoor 11ac Smart Wi-Fi radio technology.”

Both the new ZoneFlex R500 and R600 APs can be powered by a standard Power over Ethernet (PoE) 802.3af and are easily concealed. Dual-band support allows for concurrent Internet and IP-based video services; wired ports that enable easy connections to laptops, VoIP phones, cash registers, printers, and other business devices, and; multiple SSIDs for differentiated user services.

The ZoneFlex T300e and T301s are lighter than other outdoor 802.11ac APs, and are among the smallest outdoor 802.11ac APs on the market.

The ZoneFlex T300e includes all of the features of the T300 model, plus offers the ability to attach a wide variety of external 5 GHz antennas.

It’s designed for mounting on poles, street corners, and rooftops, where the AP is remote from antennas or where the AP requires custom engineered RF coverage.

The ZoneFlex T301s has a sector adaptive antenna that is designed specifically for providing the best coverage and capacity at wider 120 degree sectors and can be mounted on poles and exterior walls. Both models are easy to install, and support co-location operation with distributed antenna systems (DAS) and small cell radios.

All four of these new Ruckus APs also feature 802.3af Power over Ethernet (PoE), support up to 500 clients each, and can operate as a standalone AP, or be centrally managed by a Ruckus ZoneDirector controller, or Ruckus SmartCell Gateway (SCG) 200 or virtual SmartCell Gateway (vSCG) for maximum scalability.

Ruckus Smart Wireless Services with Cloud-based Smart Wi-Fi include: the Ruckus Smart Positioning Technology (SPoT™) service, a Cloud-based location-based service; the Ruckus Smart Access Management Service (SAMs) for better enabling public Wi-Fi hotspots; and the virtual SmartCell Gateway, a carrier-grade Network Virtualization solution for mobile network operators (MNOs) and multiple system operators (MSOs).

The ZoneFlex R500 indoor 802.11ac AP has an MSRP of $645 (USD), and the ZoneFlex R600 indoor 802.11ac AP has an MSRP of $795 (USD). The ZoneFlex T300e outdoor 802.11ac AP has an MSRP of $1,395 (USD), and the ZoneFlex T301s outdoor AP has an MSRP of $1,495 (USD). All four will be available worldwide in Q4 2014 through authorized Ruckus Big Dog resellers.

FCC: Better Rural Broadband & 5G Spectrum

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to see to the program that provides subsidies for Internet service in public schools and libraries known as E-Rate address broadband access by schools and libraries in rural areas, reports Roll Call.

In prepared remarks for an education technology event in Washington on Monday, Wheeler said that “75 percent of rural public schools today are unable to achieve the high-speed connectivity goals we have set.” He pointed to lack of access to fiber networks and the cost of paying for it when it’s available.

Wheeler says the FCC has set a clear target of $1 billion per year for Wi-Fi based internal networks for schools and libraries. “As a result, we will begin to see results in the next funding year, with expanded support for Wi-Fi to tens of millions of students and thousands of libraries”.

Wheeler’s speech comes after the FCC made changes to the E-Rate program this summer. Wheeler’s earlier plan to shake up the program was only partly successful — his FCC colleagues agreed to make more money available for Wi-Fi, as Wheeler proposed in June, but only if the money isn’t needed for basic Internet connections.

In other news, in announcing its agenda for its Oct. 17 open meeting, the FCC said it will vote on a Notice of Inquiry to “explore innovative developments in the use of spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services, and how the Commission can facilitate the development and deployment of those technologies.”

In a blog post, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote that the inquiry is aimed at broadening the FCC’s “understanding of the state of the art in technological developments that will enable the use of millimeter wave spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services.”

“Historically, mobile wireless services have been targeted at bands below 3 GHz due to technological and practical limitations. However, there have been significant developments in antenna and processing technologies that may allow the use of higher frequencies – in this case those above 24 GHz – for mobile applications”, wrote the Chairman.

5G or 5th generation wireless systems is expected to be the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards and use frequencies above 5-6 GHz (where more spectrum is available. 5G does not describe any particular specification in any official document published by any telecommunication standardization body, and is expected to deliver over 10 Gbps, compared to 1 Gbps in 4G. It is expected to be first utilized for backhaul to cell sites.

Currently, Ubiquiti’s AirFiber has set the standard in 24 GHz at $3K for 700 Mbps while SAF, Trango, and others have announced similar products at $5000 or less.

Regarding “net neutrality”, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says financial arrangements between broadband providers and content sites might be OK so long as the agreement is “commercially reasonable” and companies disclose publicly how they prioritize Internet traffic.

Not everyone agrees. Netflix and much of the public accuses the FCC of handing the Internet over to the highest bidders. There is no deadline for the FCC to pass a new rule, and deliberations at the agency could continue into next year.

Proponents of government-owned broadband networks claim they introduce competition into the market, while critics say they are an inappropriate use of tax dollars and an example of government improperly competing with the private sector.

The 3G4G Blog, compiled by Zahid Ghadialy, is perhaps the most comprehensive site covering 5G technology news.

Australia’s Telstra Fires Up National WiFi Network

Australia’s largest telecommunications company, Telstra, will install two million public hotspots that will be available for free to Telstra subscribers as part of a plan to blanket public spaces with internet access.

Trials of the $100m project will begin by November, reports The Guardian, and will allow Telstra customers who agree to share their bandwidth to get free access to any hotspot. The data they use will be deducted from their home allowance.

Non-Telstra customers, and those who don’t share their home connection, will be able to connect for an as yet undisclosed fee.

Many of the hotspots will be repurposed public phones which are mostly located in busy areas.

The trial will include busy spots such as Bondi Beach in Sydney, Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne and Rundle Mall in Adelaide. Popular holiday spots and parts of Perth, Brisbane, Hobart, Canberra and Darwin will also be included.

Some 1,000 hotspots should be operational by Christmas at sites that will include Telstra shops and exchange buildings.

Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) is a nation-wide, wholesale-only, open-access fiber data network delivering fixed line and wireless broadband connections that are sold to retail service providers, who then sell Internet access and other services to consumers.

The 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz radio spectrum will be used to provide LTE fixed wireless covering approximately 4 per cent of the population outside the fibre footprint. NBN Co has also contracted with Space Systems/Loral to build and launch two Ka band satellites in 2015 at a total cost of A$2 billion, for more rural areas.

The cost, estimated at A$37.4 billion, will be financed by a combination of a Federal Government investment of A$30.4 billion and private investment for the remainder. NBN Co intends to begin paying dividends back to the Federal Government in 2021, and to have fully repaid the Government’s contribution by 2034.

The concept is similar to those planned by Comcast and AT&T in North America. AT&T has built a network of free hotspots for customers at thousands of places—including train stations, as well as Starbucks and McDonald’s locations across the country. Comcast’s Xfinity wireless network turns customer’s cable modems into public Wi-Fi hotspots accessible with an Xfinity account login.

In June, Comcast said its Xfinity WiFi footprint had expanded to about 3 million hotspots nationwide, getting it closer toward a goal of expanding that footprint to 8 million hotspots by the end of 2014.

Hotspot 2.0 is a new set of protocols to enable cellular-like roaming. A variety of partnerships are developing nationwide and world-wide, including:

Infrastructure providers are also enabling small businesses and organizations to “roll their own” Hotspot 2.0 network:

Multi-User MIMO promises to handle large crowds better then Wave 1 802.11ac products since the different users can use different streams at the same time. Public Hotspots serving large crowds will benefit with MU-MIMO but enterprise and carrier-grade gear could be a year away, say industry observers.

The FCC has increased Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, making Comcast and mobile phone operators happy since they can make use of 802.11ac networks, both indoors and out, even utilizing all four channels for up to 1 Gbps wireless networking.

The FCC’s 5 GHz U-NII Report & Order allowed higher power in the 5.150 – 5.250 GHz band.

These FCC U-NII technical modifications are separate from another proposal currently under study by the FCC and NTIA that would add another 195 MHz of spectrum under U-NII rules in two new bands, U-NII 2B (5.350 – 5.470 GHz) and U-NII 4 (5.850 – 5.925 GHz).

Commercial entities, including cable operators, cellular operators, and independent companies seem destined to blanket every dense urban area in the country with high-power 5 GHz service – “free” if you’re already a subscriber on their subscription network

Related Dailywireless articles include; Comcast Buys Cloud Control WiFi Company, Gowex Declares Bankruptcy, Ruckus Announces Cloud-Based WiFi Services, Cloud4Wi: Cloud-Managed, Geo-enabled Hotspots, Ad-Sponsored WiFi Initiatives from Gowex & Facebook, FCC increases Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network,Cloud4Wi Annouces Cloud-Controlled WiFi , PowerCloud: Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop , WiFi & Hotspot 2.0 at MWC, Hotspot 2.0 Moves Out, NYC & Cable Provide Hotspot 2.0 Service, Cities of San Jose and Santa Clara Get Free WiFi, Free Google WiFi for NYC Chelsea Neighborhood,Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop , Meraki Cloud Managed Security

OpenBTS: 3G Cellular Data Goes Open Source

Range Networks (Twitter) is simplifying cellular networks using Open Source hardware and software. OpenBTS software is a Linux application that uses a software-defined radio to present a standard 3GPP air interface to user devices.

OpenBTS (Open Base Transceiver Station) allows standard GSM-compatible mobile phones to be used as SIP endpoints in Voice over IP (VOIP) networks. OpenBTS was developed and is maintained by Range Networks. The public release of OpenBTS is notable for being the first free software implementation of the lower three layers of the industry-standard GSM protocol stack.

The aim of the project is to drastically reduce the cost of GSM service provision in rural areas, the developing world, and hard to reach locations such as oil rigs. It’s also used to provide free cellular-like services for events like Burning Man.

OpenBTS announced last month the public release of OpenBTS-UMTS 1.0, providing data capability for 3G networks. The new code is available to the OpenBTS community immediately as a free download.

Industry leading software-defined radio (SDR) suppliers Ettus Research and Nuand make radio hardware that supports OpenBTS-UMTS.

Nuand has a USB 3-powered Software Defined Radio. Out of the box the bladeRF can tune from 300MHz to 3.8GHz without the need for extra boards.

Since 2006, the folks behind OpenBTS have been running the Papa Legba camp at Burning Man have provided fully licensed independent (free) cellular service with help from Geeks Without Bounds and others.

OpenBTS is now part of the GNU Radio project and administered by the Free Software Foundation. The original founders of this project are David A. Burgess and Harvind S. Samra.

GNU Radio can be used with external RF hardware to create software-defined radios, or without hardware in a simulation-like environment.

Keyless car remotes, home alarm systems, traffic alert systems, toll-collection transponders, TV satellites, airliner communications, medical pagers and even space probes can all be disrupted, thanks to software-defined radio, two Australian researchers demonstrated in separate presentations at the BlackHat security conference this month.

See Dailywireless; Free Cellular at Burning Man 2013, Burning Man: Ten Years of Communications Innovation, Range Networks: Open Source Cellular Networks, Burning Man Goes Live, Interactive Arts Festivals