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FCC revisited: Net neutrality changes are misleading and not benign, says Gewirtz


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This affects home and Cell Internet services. If you don't use the Internet at all, you can stop here. If you do, you might want to understand the issue exactly.

Yesterday I was about to post about the changes to Net Neutrality rules that the FCC new chairman was about to make when I got sidetracked. Turned out for the best because David Gerwitz, one of my favorite tech writers because he goes in depth and then translates it into terms we can understand, went from pro the FCC changes to horrified, once he got into the real details. I had to deal with several different CFRs or Codes of Federal Regulations. These are an inch to several inches thick, and are an exercise in reading comprehension of difficult passages written by folks who weren't concerned with clarity. Gerwitz changed 180 degrees from yesterday when he said they were benign. It turns out they are misleading, and definitely not benign. This is not politics although everyone will try who are polarized and that is a shame because anyone who uses the Internet, or has a website for profit like this Escapees website, has a stake in these proceedings. So let's keep the politics out of this and actually read what is proposed with this non partisan guide, Mr. Gerwitz.


" Upon finding updated but disturbingly unofficial source documents, David Gewirtz recants his earlier statement that the FCC changes are benign. The FCC's intentions may be out there, but they were not published according to its own guidelines for rulemaking review.

But nothing is as simple as the hype would make you believe. For the past week, I've been trying to get a handle on exactly what Chairman Pai is proposing, what that proposal would mean, and what would change.

To that end, I've skipped past all the blog posts, all the well-meaning tech explainers, and all the forceful, yet sincere videos. I've gone straight to the source. I've been reading the law. The actual Code of Federal Regulations, and the actual documents that describe the changes proposed by the FCC.

As it turns out, I was reading the official documents (more on that below). There is another document that's self-describes in the footnotes as "does not constitute any official action by the Commission" that indicates that Ajit Pai now intends to brutally transform and remove internet freedoms. I'll show you that the document was not where it was supposed to be for public discussion, and I'll show you my conclusions. To say I'm not thrilled is an understatement.

Oh, and before I get into this, I have a request: Please no hate mail or death threats this time. I love the internet and our freedoms as much as any of you. I'm describing the result of a long, careful analysis. I'd really rather not see nastiness in my inbox and feeds before coffee tomorrow morning. Think of me as a guide and explorer, not a partisan.

As you can see by the existence of both the update to my original article and this one, I go where the facts take me, even if that's someplace completely different than my original analysis drew me to.

You all know I have very little regard for either political party or their games. Thanks. Now, let's get started.


None of this is particularly helpful for an intelligent discussion of a nuanced issue, but it is business-as-usual for politicians. In this article, I'm going to drill past the hype and political grandstanding to the actual nuts and bolts of the proposal.

Unfortunately, the way they were communicated -- and the way the opposition is also communicating -- seems designed to foster disagreement, rather than constructive problem solving.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is more concept than rubric. The general idea, well-described by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is: "Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services."

This is messy. There have been some attempts to clarify the key components, and, in fact, if you dig through the FCC documents I'll present to you in this analysis, you'll find there are three main concepts: No blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization.

No blocking

The idea of no blocking means that, for example, an ISP can't decide that you're not allowed to see certain websites just because they compete. Verizon, for example, owns Oath, the bizarre new name for their acquisition of AOL and Yahoo. AOL owns, among other internet properties, MapQuest. The no-blocking idea means that Verizon shouldn't be allowed to block, for example, Google Maps, just because it owns MapQuest and wants to boost MapQuest's business.

This also extends to the idea that ISPs can't block content (except for certain illegal content) just because of a political perspective. For example, no-blocking says ISPs can't block this article, even if they don't want their customers to see it. And no-blocking also means they're generally not allowed to replace content (for example, replacing the ads this site sells to support its services with ads that provide revenue to the ISP).

Blocking is bad. No blocking is good. That makes sense.

No throttling

No throttling is the idea that ISPs can't slow down certain classes of traffic. For example, we all know that most of the bits that travel over the internet originate on Netflix and YouTube. Video is not only hugely popular, but also requires (especially 4K video) a lot of data.

Early on, some ISPs were shocked by how much data some customers were consuming when they started streaming video. They hustled to try to limit that, as much out of fear that their networks would implode as over a competitive desire to promote another streaming service.

The no-throttling idea is that ISPs can't intentionally slow down certain classes of internet traffic, particularly video and torrents. AT&T, for example, owns the streaming service DirecTV Now. The no-throttling concept says that AT&T can't slow down (and thereby diminish the watchability) of services like Netflix in order to to push customers to use its own streaming service instead.

Paid prioritization

Paid prioritization is, essentially, a mix of the previous ideas. The idea of paid prioritization is that if you want your service to travel over someone else's lines, you pay for that privilege. In theory, Netflix doesn't have to pay AT&T to cover its extreme bandwidth usage. But, in practice, the huge internet streaming providers need to provide servers near the edge just to make it all work.

So, really, what paid prioritization is meant to do is allow a new startup to compete against a firm like Netflix and not have added carrier fees assessed to reach viewers or readers. The fact that starting a new service, whether video or text, has a vast array of other costs really makes paid prioritization less of a hot button.

A variation of paid prioritization is what's called "zero-rating." The idea here is that some vendors can pay carriers to not charge for their data. If you've ever seen the T-Mobile ads where certain video services don't count against your data cap, you've seen zero-rating in action. We'll come back to this when we talk about the FCC's changes and what they may (or may not) mean.

How and why my analysis conclusions changed

After careful analysis of officially published source documents, I made the statement that the FCC is not trying to eliminate net neutrality's no-blocking, no-throttling, and no-paid-prioritization rules. That statement may be incorrect, because there is another, unofficial source document that is far more draconian in its changes to internet governance.

I based my analysis in this article on a May 23, 2017 notice of proposed rulemaking [PDF], which is the latest such official document listed in the government's EDOCS system for Docket 17-108, the rule change code for the proposed changes.

Here's what the EDOCS search for Docket 17-108 returned:


EDOCS search for Docket 17-108 on December 4, 2017


As you can see, there is no proposed rules change document for any time in November, which is when Chairman Pai issued his press release.

However, a number of readers sent me a link to a PDF on the site transition.fcc.gov which vastly changes the intent of the proposed rule changes I discuss below.

Prior to publishing this article, I reached out to Tina Pelkey, the listed media contact on the November 21 FCC Statement, to confirm I was looking at the correct rule changes. She did not respond.

The document shown on transition.fcc.gov [PDF] is not only not indexed on EDOCS, but it also does not list a release date nor an adoption date. However, the small print at the bottom of Page 2 does lead me to believe it might supercede the document I analyzed below:

This document has been circulated for tentative consideration by the Commission at its December open meeting.The issues referenced in this document and the Commission's ultimate resolution of those issues remain under consideration and subject to change. This document does not constitute any official action by the Commission.

If this document, even though apparently not an official action, is representative of the changes the FCC is now proposing, it is a vast and deeply worrying change from everything I've reassured you about from the proposed rule changes officially published previously.

Specifically, this new document proposes the following:

Snip - I deleted the bulk of the middle of the article which is thorough. Read the article for those who want a full understanding from a non partisan source. Go here: http://www.zdnet.com/article/fcc-revisited-net-neutrality-changes-are-misleading-and-not-benign-says-gewirtz/?loc=newsletter_small_thumb&ftag=TREc64629f&bhid=19724681974700635514865380622813

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20 minutes ago, Chalkie said:

I will make one comment here as regards ZDNet being a non partisan source. Follow up who owns ZDNet and you may find reason to be suspicious of how non partisan they are. That is all I am going to say.

OK.  A quick check shows ZDNet is part of CBS Interactive and something called TechRepublic. 

Is the issue that ZDNet is not, non partisan, or that the person writing the article referenced by RV is wrong with his statements about FCC and Net Neutrality?  

It is frustrating when a person throws out a bomb and doesn't want to provide some info about their concerns. 

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When I see things like "I believe " and "leads me to believe" I assume a lot of assumptions could be involved.  I am not sure how I feel about this but it is very political and the 2 major political parties do not agree.  I also wondered how the telephone deregulation would work out.  Why were we changing the telephone regulations, when we had the best system in the world?  Well the telephone system is certainly different today.

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16 hours ago, Randyretired said:

When I see things like "I believe " and "leads me to believe" I assume a lot of assumptions could be involved.  I am not sure how I feel about this but it is very political and the 2 major political parties do not agree.  I also wondered how the telephone deregulation would work out.  Why were we changing the telephone regulations, when we had the best system in the world?  Well the telephone system is certainly different today.

how can he state beyond "I believe and leads me to believe"  when it is not finalized. That does not mean that based on what he is seeing based on current information that he may be fairly correct. Interesting that he changed his view from what he thought base on the earlier information. Like him based on the little I get from it I believe his conclusions are valid. 

I truly believe the profit is the key motive.  I would like to be wrong about all of it but I am not holding my breath.

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I agree with your statement that profit is involved.  That is why I referenced the telephone deregulation.  Profit is what has driven the cell phones many of use, faster internet and cheap long distance.  I can't help to wonder if this might bring on more investment and more innovation, but that is just another assumption.

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On 12/5/2017 at 6:18 PM, Chalkie said:

Al F, this forum forbids political discussion, therefore I made the statement I made and you can draw whatever conclusions you wish based on my "bomb". Again, I am making no further comments on this topic. 

Sorry.  I didn't realize you were starting a political discussion w/o actually stating that fact.

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great last link rv.  Too many will believe it is fake news.  Maybe it is but I tend to believe it. Since I am a Texan I feel like I am running my head against a tree with my phone calls but I will carry on. Ironically I am a very conservative person. (not meant politically)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm the Monday Morning Quarter Back.

I'm saying the Change has been made and and fairness may come to the game. I buy Data and the rate which I receive the data is based on time of day which varies the rate is 4G to dial-up. 

Quality of service or quality of product varies with price. What does the job for you is what you should be able to buy.

Sears Roebuck (just Sears for the younger generation) is the first I remember that had a product grading system. GOOD  BETTER  BEST You paid more for the best because it offered more. Go to Starbucks and look at there menu, doesn't more cost more. If you are driving and get caught speeding, doesn't it cost more if driving 25 MPH over the speed limit than if 10MPH.

Go to Fast Food and many places ask if you want a larger size for ?? cents. TV cable and Satellite services same way pay more for more.

The Internet 25 years ago was commonly talked to on modems of less than dial-up speeds. Now the computer can talk any speed you can commonly connect to. I don't use Facebook for 2 reasons but one being data usage and slow response when I would use that social media.

I'm for pay as you go and if you want to watch TV/Movies on the internet you should be paying the extra. Everything is Neutral when I go to Starbucks til I order. Neutral that I don't have to pay to get in, only pay if I want thing other than a napkin.


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We will see what actually happens.Were there is profit to be made it will be made.. IMO many will not pay for  many services example I would not pay to use social media or to watch mainstream media news. I got along with out .internet for decades and can do it again if necessary.

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Thank you for your informational post. If you read the full post and studied it and don't know what the problems with the issue covered are and how they will negatively affect you, try reading it again! You will clearly pay more for less, no doubt about that. It will take time for that to happen but it will happen! Do you think that Verizon and AT&T spent that much money on the matter to help you?

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Talking about it on a website thread is one thing, but like reading the dissenting opinions of the SCOTUS, you can agree or disagree but you have both sides at that point. The FCC is the guardian of our airwaves and our communications. Here from the official federal record are the full statements of the two dissenting insiders who have more experience than the new Chairman.

Read the full dissenting opinions of the FCC commissioners who tried to save net neutrality



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18 hours ago, Zulu said:

Since the electromagnetic spectrum is a limited resource (there's only so much mega- and gigahertz to go around), it has to be regulated.

And then there is Fiber as a prime mover of data that is not limited if you install it $$$.

And let me say I'm not a supporter of Verizon. Past abuse of regulated business practices may have kept me in a job for a while and I fought Verizon's selling their wire-line business. Verizon at that time was the Classic Used Car Salesmen

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What I don't understand about this issue is just why isn't the internet data treated the same as electricity or water coming to a sticks and bricks. 

The electric usage is often brought up as an example of equal access to usage.  However no one seems to want to say I have to pay more for the amount of electric I use. 

That is if I use more electric or water I pay for how much more I use.

On the internet, if I want to watch movies and consume hundreds (thousands???) of gigabytes of data in a month, shouldn't I be charged more than those of us who only consume 20-30GB a month? 

By the same token if Netflix is putting out millions upon millions of gigabytes a day/week/month shouldn't they be paying a lot for that amount of data?

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