Widgets Magazine

FCC Forgot Layer 3

Last month the FCC Enforcement Bureau quietly released a Public Notice that outlines the process for companies to follow in order to file for an Advisory Opinion from the FCC Enforcement Bureau. Being released right before the three day holiday weekend, it didn,Aeot seem to draw a lot of attention but the contents proved to be quite interesting.
The Advisory Opinion Procedures are designed to be a way for service providers to reach out to the FCC prior to enacting new policies, practices, or procedures and ensure that it will not interfere with the Open Internet orders as they currently stand. In going over the press release, it raised some curiosities for me about who precisely would be able to file a request in for clarification regarding any new plans in order to get an opinion. Important points of the notice are the fact that these advisory opinions are not mandatory for any possible changes, but merely there to help streamline the process. They are also not official rulings but simply an opportunity to clarify if the future plans will infringe on the rules. Factual data must be presented to show how the changes will have an effect, not hypothetical, and these rulings do not have to be made public.
telepresenceIn an attempt to clarify exactly how these rules might apply to small business owners, as there are many in the AV industry, I reached out to the FCC to get a little clarification. The example I gave to an FCC official to begin the-*discussion of the matter was a small business owner providing a service that utilizes the network but does not provide the network service. I specifically focused on how a small AV integration business would file for an advisory opinion about the possible effects of adding video conferencing or unified communication services to their current roster of offered services if they are unaware of how their local internet service provider’s (ISP,Aeos) plans could affect their service once implemented. The exchange with the official proceeded to go on for a few weeks as we attempted to reach a point of clarification which amounted to the fact that these advisory opinions are solely for the ISPs and their potential developments, not those providing services that utilize the networks. In those instances, it will be an FCC appointed ombudsman that would be the point of contact to raise any issues or concerns.
It,Aeos not every day that the opportunity to speak with FCC officials is presented, so I did my best to make the most of it, ultimately resulting in a phone call that allowed me to get to the heart of the matter regarding the kinds of services that AV integrators provide and which of them, if any, would be protected by the Open Internet rules. The results were not far off from where my theories have been since the rules were made public, but there is some additional vital information.
In my conversation regarding the service of video conferencing over ISP networks, there was a distinct line drawn in the sand about what the Open Internet rules are designed to protect. Essentially, as I,Aeove discussed before, the rules place-*the distinction of BIAS (broadband internet access service) on the services and devices that are-*protected. What that actually means is that if someone can open a web browser and log into the service from anywhere then it is protected under the rules.
This is an incredibly important clarification-*because the differentiation between what is and isn,Aeot protected becomes much more defined. For example, when looking at hard codec versus soft codec video conferencing solutions, by the logic applied in the rules, a soft codec (Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Skype, or any other software based service) would be considered an edge service provider like Netflix or Hulu and would be protected. However, because the hard codecs operate on the basis of connecting IP address to IP address, and are not generally accessible to users through a web browser, but instead require particular hardware to utilize, their signals are not protected under the rules.
This seems like a simple way of looking at the rules as they apply to the network connected devices, but the far-reaching effects that result are massive as more and more AV signal transportation methods are moving to higher layers of network and will therefore not be protected as they will not be available to the general users by opening a browser. Any devices that are connecting to a network to transport between two locations that are not doing so through browser access would not be considered protected by these rules. While the first thought might go to layer 3, where many of the transport topologies are beginning to move, the same would also apply to any layer 2 devices as well.
IoTThat might not seem like a massive detriment to how AV is used in the commercial space currently as we often don,Aeot attempt to send signals over networks and across ISPs in that method, but think about it from the larger perspective of something like IoT (the Internet of Things). In IoT all these devices are connecting to a network and none of the data is being protected because while a user interface for the device can be accessed-*via a web browser for information and configuration, the product in and of itself is not something that logs into a browser, which arguable means that it is not an edge device.
Additionally, there is still the consideration of how these smart devices connect, not to the user, but to the central database for any possible notification or ordering practices. The rules state that content delivery networks (CDNs) are a non-BIAS service. Would it be a far stretch to then assume that the connectivity of these devices to communicate with a central host would also be excluded from protection? The simple example, will your smart refrigerator start costing you extra money from your ISP in order to act on your settings to tell a service that it’s time to order more milk?
By setting up the architecture of the language of the Open Internet rules in this way, the FCC has isolated out what they refer to as ,Aeuspecialized services.,Aeu These would be the kinds of things mentioned above that would require filing a petition with the FCC to alter the rules to move them from the non-BIAS to the BIAS side of the verbiage.
After 18 months of reading, researching, and tracking the way the FCC is looking to handle the Open Internet rules, there is still a great deal that,Aeos unclear. The confusion is certainly apparent as consumers have begun bombarding the FCC with generalized complaints about their ISPs, much of which has little or nothing to do with what the Open Internet rules actually cover and it only appears it is going to get more complicated as the Appellate Court in DC began hearing cases filed by ISPs earlier this week. Of note, my favorite argument that an ISP is presenting against the rules is that they infringe upon the free speech of the ISPs because it limits the ISP,Aeos ability to regulate the content that is going across their network. In essence, they are saying the rules are illegal because they limit the-*company’s-*free speech to possibly limit their customer’s-*free speech.
These rules aren,Aeot done yet and, to be fair, they were not published with the intent of being fully completed. They were voted into practice with the caveat that they could be changed when necessary through the proper channels. Given the loop hole that appears in the document for the lack of protection for network connected devices that are not accessing a web browser and the current evolution of the non-browser networked devices as well as the smart and wearable devices that are beginning to dominate in the marketplace, it isn,Aeot hard to see that we’re going to be seeing a needed change to the rules regardless of how the lawsuits end up.
As always, if you want to get the complete story on Net Neutrality, go here.
Filing a consumer complaint with the FCC: https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us

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