Saturday, February 28, 2015

Net Neutrality: The end of Inflight Internet, or business as usual?


How will emerging inflight broadband comply with Net Neutrality?
Gogo is caught up with the FCC latest mandate to establish Open Internet rules for mobile broadband (see highlights below).  

Is Gogo alone in this issue?  No, of course not.  I just wanted to recognize their commentary in the recent 2014 Annual Report (see below) and use their online collateral as exemplary.  Inmarsat and their distributors, ViaSat, Panasonic, and Global Eagle Entertainment would have similar challenges.

Gogo admits that the new rules apply through statements throughout their recently released 2014 Annual Report, but does not know what the impact.

The FCC expresses a willingness to allow "reasonable and legitimate network management" as long as they (the ISP) don't target specific applications or classes of applications."  They (the ISP) cannot unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage the ability of consumers to select, access, and use the lawful content, applications, services, or devices of their choosing; or of edge providers to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to consumers."

Gogo must now disclose, "...in a consistent format, promotional rates, fees and surcharges and data caps...including packet loss as a measure of network performance, and provide notice of network management practices that can affect service."

Gogo connectivity services would be caught up in this; Vision would be excluded.  

Any "private" services delivered by other than passenger request may be exempt from the new rules, especially if they terminated by Gogo rather than into the Internet.




I am no lawyer, I cannot legally interpret FCC rulings, no one asked me, I was just curious, this is just an opinion, I don't have all the facts.

I had a look at the Gogo portal to see how connectivity is sold.

Gogo sells Internet access sessions, front and center.  

Take a look at their product descriptions:




Gogo unlimited and Airline Unlimited use the term "unlimited...Internet".  That is punching a hot-button.  The intent is apparent, but the expected session performance is difficult to express.  Just because you can get on the local network, is it unlimited access without usable Internet connection (say due to congestion)?




The 1-Hour pass and the All-Day pass profess Internet access, but nothing regarding how much data you can expect to consume.






Under the new rules, Gogo's Technical Specifications will not be welcome.




The following response to FAQ is also underwhelming against the new rules.





Gogo does provide a disclaimer that reveals that performance is subject to numerous factors.




Is this a problem:




At least according to the following, it won't activate below 10,000 feet (for passengers, at least).  




The current disclaimer regarding streaming:






Under the new rules, the first objective is to give the public unfiltered access to legal web sites. If Gogo blocks or degrades certain web sites, they are creating a conflict with the objective. Does it mean compliant access if after starting a streaming session it stalls out due to bandwidth shaping? Gogo can argue reasonable network management. There is not enough bandwidth for personal streaming to more than a few persons, and if left unchecked nothing will work for anyone.

The public must have a much better description of what they are buying. Right now, Gogo commits to letting you access the network under presumably a fair-use policy which restricts bandwidth as a function of demand and capacity using rules that can be scrutinized. There is no assurance of sustainable throughput along with the certainty of some drop-outs. If flying on a red-eye over Nebraska the network might work great, but on Monday at 10 am over New York not so great. How does that work under the new rules?

Should there be an onboard portal showing all the nitty-gritty as to current network performance - how many users and the bandwidth being delivered plus the gateway connectivity? Awareness might help with customer satisfaction, but Gogo can't sell a session and then not have it work on a regular basis. Even if Gogo is diligent in refunding everyone who complains, not everyone complains, and besides, the rules state you have to deliver what you promise. Promising access to the LAN and nothing about Internet access performance seems unacceptable, if the product is Internet access.

What if the LAN WiFi itself becomes a problem - while the radio service is working perfectly? That could be very localized and quite transient in nature. That would be a whole other dimension of issues, and especially since a passenger may be the source of a WiFi issue.

Gogo offers third parties and the sponsoring airline special "live portal" capability, allowing the public "not buying a connectivity session" access to selected Internet destinations but blocking all others, especially their competitors. Gogo offers this service, presumably, on a non-discriminatory basis, but I wonder how welcome a competing airline would be.

Gogo has been offering "free" text messaging only to T-Mobile subscribers, presumably through an agreement with T-Mobile, but this agreement has been exclusive, locking out any of T-Mobile competition equal access for their subscribers. The exclusivity is reportedly ending shortly.

Going forward, Gogo would presumably offer Text messaging or Live Portals under a non-discriminatory basis. However, does Gogo offer the same terms to each party, or does Gogo favor some parties with better terms, and who is to judge?

The concept of selling a "bucket" of Internet (MBytes) has some promise for demonstrating whether value was delivered or not.

Will it be mandated to offer a streaming service in some form at some price? What resolution and frame rate will be guaranteed? How will drop-outs be accounted for?

Does each customer get a service level agreement as a part of their contract?

I have offered my observations using Gogo web page screen shots to highlight that there will need to be adjustments. The FCC should be reasonable and respectful knowing airborne Internet access in no commodity, it has very real limits, and it has very high relative cost.

While the FCC is concerned about equal access, other countries may have different objectives, including actively banning access to certain sites.  That is not a new issue, at least.

"Before February 26, 2015 our mobile wireless broadband internet access services, including Gogo Connectivity and Gogo Biz, were classified as information services, and not as telecommunications services. Therefore, these services were not subject to FCC common carrier regulation..."

Those days are over - everyone else too!

Peter Lemme
peter@satcom.guru

Copyright 2015
All Rights Reserved.








Excerpts from the FCC press release with my highlighting:


FCC: New Rules to Protect an Open Internet

While the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet rules had limited applicability to mobile broadband, the new rules— in their entirety—would apply to fixed and mobile broadband alike, recognizing advances in technology and the growing significance of wireless broadband access in recent years (while recognizing the importance of reasonable network management and its specific application to mobile and unlicensed Wi- Fi networks). The Order protects consumers no matter how they access the Internet, whether on a desktop computer or a mobile device.

Bright Line Rules: The first three rules ban practices that are known to harm the Open Internet:
  • No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. 
The bright-line rules against blocking and throttling will prohibit harmful practices that target specific applications or classes of applications. And the ban on paid prioritization ensures that there will be no fast lanes.

A Standard for Future Conduct: Because the Internet is always growing and changing, there must be a known standard by which to address any concerns that arise with new practices. The Order establishes that ISPs cannot “unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage” the ability of consumers to select, access, and use the lawful content, applications, services, or devices of their choosing; or of edge providers to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to consumers. Today’s Order ensures that the Commission will have authority to address questionable practices on a case-by- case basis, and provides guidance in the form of factors on how the Commission will apply the standard in practice.

Greater Transparency: The rules described above will restore the tools necessary to address specific conduct by broadband providers that might harm the Open Internet. But the Order recognizes the critical role of transparency in a well-functioning broadband ecosystem. In addition to the existing transparency rule, which was not struck down by the court, the Order requires that broadband providers disclose, in a consistent format, promotional rates, fees and surcharges and data caps. Disclosures must also include packet loss as a measure of network performance, and provide notice of network management practices that can affect service. To further consider the concerns of small ISPs, the Order adopts a temporary exemption from the transparency enhancements for fixed and mobile providers with 100,000 or fewer subscribers, and delegates authority to our Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau to determine whether to retain the exception and, if so, at what level.

The Order also creates for all providers a “safe harbor” process for the format and nature of the required disclosure to consumers, which the Commission believes will lead to more effective presentation of consumer-focused information by broadband providers.

Reasonable Network Management: For the purposes of the rules, other than paid prioritization, an ISP may engage in reasonable network management. This recognizes the need of broadband providers to manage the technical and engineering aspects of their networks.
  • In assessing reasonable network management, the Commission’s standard takes account of the particular engineering attributes of the technology involved—whether it be fiber, DSL, cable, unlicensed Wi-Fi, mobile, or another network medium.
  • However, the network practice must be primarily used for and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management—and not business—purpose. For example, a provider can’t cite reasonable network management to justify reneging on its promise to supply a customer with “unlimited” data. 
Broad Protection
Some data services do not go over the public Internet, and therefore are not “broadband Internet access” services (VoIP from a cable system is an example, as is a dedicated heart-monitoring service). The Order ensures that these services do not undermine the effectiveness of the Open Internet rules. Moreover, all broadband providers’ transparency disclosures will continue to cover any offering of such non-Internet access data services—ensuring that the public and the Commission can keep a close eye on any tactics that could undermine the Open Internet rules.


Legal Authority: Reclassifying Broadband Internet Access under Title II
The Order provides the strongest possible legal foundation for the Open Internet rules by relying on multiple sources of authority including both Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. At the same time, the Order refrains – or forbears – from enforcing 27 provisions of Title II and over 700 associated regulations that are not relevant to modern broadband service. Together Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed for innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers, while not burdening broadband providers with anachronistic utility-style regulations such as rate regulation, tariffs or network sharing requirements.
  • First, the Order reclassifies “broadband Internet access service”—that’s the retail broadband service Americans buy from cable, phone, and wireless providers—as a telecommunications service under Title II. This decision is fundamentally a factual one. It recognizes that today broadband Internet access service is understood by the public as a transmission platform through which consumers can access third-party content, applications, and services of their choosing. Reclassification of broadband Internet access service also addresses any limitations that past classification decisions placed on the ability to adopt strong open Internet rules, as interpreted by the D.C. Circuit in the Verizon case. And it supports the Commission’s authority to address interconnection disputes on a case-by-case basis, because the promise to consumers that they will be able to travel the Internet encompasses the duty to make the necessary arrangements that allow consumers to use the Internet as they wish. 








Excerpts from Gogo and with my highlighting:

GOGO 2014 annual report

"Before February 26, 2015 our mobile wireless broadband internet access services, including Gogo Connectivity and Gogo Biz, were classified as information services, and not as telecommunications services. Therefore, these services were not subject to FCC common carrier regulation, although other regulations did apply."

On February 26, 2015, the FCC adopted an order in which, according to an official FCC News Release, it reclassified mobile (and fixed) broadband internet access services as Title II telecommunications services. The text of the FCC order has not yet been released, but the News Release indicates that certain provisions of Title II will now apply to broadband internet access services, including provisions that: prohibit unjust or unreasonable practices or discrimination; allow investigation and enforcement; impose consumer privacy and accessibility protections; and facilitate certain universal service requirements. The News Release also indicates that the FCC has decided to forbear from applying a number of Title II requirements, including provisions related to rate regulation and universal service contributions. Until the full text of the FCC’s order is released, we cannot assess what impact, if any, it may have on our current practices.

According to the News Release, the FCC also adopted broad new net neutrality rules. For example, broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. Broadband providers also may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, applications,services, or non-harmful devices. In addition, broadband providers may not favor some lawful internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind, and they may not prioritize the content and services of their affiliates. For purposes of these rules, other than for paid prioritization, a provider may engage in reasonable network management. As noted above, until the full text of the FCC’s order is released, we cannot assess what impact, if any, it may have on our current practices.

Our internet access service has also been covered by the FCC’s data roaming rules, which require commercial mobile data service (CMDS) providers like Gogo to negotiate roaming arrangements with any requesting facilities-based, technologically compatible providers of CMDS. The rules do not give other providers the right to install equipment on Gogo-equipped aircraft, and do not require the Gogo service to be provided on a discounted basis, although the arrangement must be “commercially reasonable.” The rules allow us to take reasonable measures to safeguard the quality of our service against network congestion that may result from roaming traffic. Until the full text of the FCC order discussed above is released, we cannot assess what impact, if any, it may have on the FCC’s data roaming rules.

In addition, most of our services are subject to various rules that seek to ensure that the services are accessible by persons with disabilities, including requirements related to the pass-through of closed captioning for certain IP-delivered video content offered through our Gogo Vision service. Until the full text of the FCC order discussed above is released, we cannot assess what impact, if any, it may have on the FCC’s accessibility requirements.


Truth in Billing and Consumer Protection
As noted above, on February 26, 2015, the FCC adopted an order in which, according to an official FCC News Release, it reclassified mobile (and fixed) broadband internet access services as Title II telecommunications services. The text of the FCC order has not yet been released, but the News Release indicates that certain provisions of Title II will now apply to broadband internet access services. Until the full text of the FCC’s order is released, we cannot assess what impact, if any, it may have on our current practices.

As noted above, on February 26, 2015, the FCC adopted an order in which, according to an official FCC News Release, it reclassified mobile (and fixed) broadband internet access services as Title II telecommunications services. According to the News Release, the FCC also adopted broad new net neutrality rules. For example, broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. Broadband providers also may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. In addition, broadband providers may not favor some lawful internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind, and they may not prioritize the content and services of their affiliates. For purposes of these rules, other than for paid prioritization, a provider may engage in reasonable network management. As noted above, until the full text of the FCC’s order is released, we cannot assess what impact, if any, it may have on our current practices.

For example, before February 26, 2015, our mobile wireless broadband internet access services, including Gogo Connectivity and Gogo Biz, were classified as information services, and not as telecommunications services. Therefore, these services were not subject to FCC common carrier regulation, although other regulations did apply. The FCC’s December 2010 net neutrality regulations required broadband internet access providers to provide detailed customer disclosures regarding network management practices, performance levels and commercial terms of the service. Other provisions of that order – such as one which placed limits on our ability to block users’ access to lawful websites, including websites that may compete with our other services – were struck down by a federal appeals court.

On February 26, 2015, the FCC adopted an order in which, according to an official FCC News Release, it reclassified mobile (and fixed) broadband internet access services as Title II telecommunications services. The text of the FCC order has not yet been released, but the News Release indicates that certain provisions of Title II will now apply to broadband internet access services, including provisions that: prohibit unjust or unreasonable practices or discrimination; allow investigation and enforcement; impose consumer privacy and accessibility protections; and facilitate certain universal service requirements. The News Release also indicates that the FCC has decided to forbear from applying a number of Title II requirements, including provisions related to rate regulation and universal service contributions. Until the full text of the FCC’s order is released, we cannot assess what impact, if any, it may have on our current practices.

According to the News Release, the FCC also adopted broad new net neutrality rules. For example, broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. Broadband providers also may not impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. In addition, broadband providers may not favor some lawful internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind, and they may not prioritize the content and services of their affiliates. For purposes of these rules, other than for paid prioritization, a provider may engage in reasonable network management. As noted above, until the full text of the FCC’s order is released, we cannot assess what impact, if any, it may have on our current practices.

Other jurisdictions may adopt similar or different regulations that could affect our ability to use “network management” techniques. Likewise, the United States and the European Union, among other jurisdictions, are considering proposals regarding data protection that, if adopted, could impose heightened restrictions on certain of Gogo’s activities relating to the collection and use of data of end users. Further, as we promote exclusive content and services and increase targeted advertising with our media partners to customers of the Gogo service, we may attract increased regulatory scrutiny.

We cannot be certain what positions regulators may take regarding our compliance with, or lack of compliance with, current and future legal and regulatory requirements or what positions regulators may take regarding any past or future actions we have taken or may take in any jurisdiction. Regulators may determine that we are not in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, and impose penalties, or we may need to make changes to the Gogo platform, which could be costly and difficult. Any of these events would adversely affect our operating results and business.