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CDT Supports Effective, Narrowly Targeted Net Neutrality Rules

CDT filed comments urging the FCC to fill the policy vacuum created by the January court decision overturning the agency’s 2010 open Internet (aka net neutrality) rules. One theme of our comments is that, for all the rhetoric around this issue, a successful and lasting open Internet policy framework would pursue, above all, the crucial goal of ensuring the continued availability of open, “plain vanilla” Internet connections on which network operators do not and cannot play favorites.

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Scoring the Aereo Decision

Yesterday’s Aereo decision was a clear win for broadcasters and a clear loss for Aereo and its subscribers. But what about the case’s potential impact on cloud computing technologies – the focus of the brief CDT filed with several industry allies?

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Takeaways from FCC Net Neutrality Meeting

The long-awaited FCC meeting on net neutrality occurred this morning. As expected, the agency voted 3-2 to put out a tentative proposal and launch a period of public comment for protecting the open nature of the Internet. The risks are real; the FCC is right to launch the serious work of figuring out how best to address them in a legally sustainable manner.

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FCC Preparing Diluted Version of Net Neutrality Rules

No actual text has been publicly released, but it appears that the FCC’s draft plan for protecting Internet openness (a.k.a. net neutrality) would prohibit Internet providers from blocking Internet content, while providing considerable leeway for discrimination in the form of “pay-for-priority.” The details of the FCC’s proposal should come out in May, and the agency will solicit public comments on how to improve it. For stronger approaches to prevail, Internet openness supporters are going to need to make their voices heard.

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Cloud Computing Threatened in Aereo Supreme Court Case

CDT and a group of trade association allies warned the Supreme Court today that the stakes in the Aereo case go well beyond just television. In an amicus brief, we explained to the Court that the wrong approach to this case could undermine the cloud computing industry by creating new legal risks for services that store and transmit data from remote locations. We urged the Court to avoid any such approach. In the brief, we didn’t take a position on the legality of Aereo’s particular service, which enables users to watch local broadcast programming over the Internet. CDT believes that cloud computing plays an important role in facilitating online innovation and speech. It makes powerful computing resources once available only to large entities now broadly available via shared platforms, in a manner that is efficient, secure, flexible, and scalable.

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Netflix-Comcast Deal Puts Spotlight on Interconnection

Netflix and Comcast have reportedly reached a deal under which Netflix will pay to connect directly into Comcast’s network. This resolves an apparent peering dispute which had resulted in slow delivery of Netflix traffic to Comcast subscribers in recent weeks. It also raises some tricky policy questions, and appears to be sparking increased interest in the often overlooked area of Internet interconnection (also known as peering). In the short term, the result of the agreement will be better network performance for Comcast’s Internet subscribers — certainly for their Netflix traffic, and maybe even for other traffic if it leads to less congestion at interconnection points. But, the long-term picture is much murkier.

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FCC Announces Next Steps on Net Neutrality

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today announced some initial steps towards revising the Commission’s open Internet (aka net neutrality) protections in light of the setback of last month’s DC Circuit decision. The Chairman opened a new proceeding asking for general public comment, and said that he intends to seek new rules that would be consistent with the DC Circuit’s opinion. He also announced that the FCC won’t appeal the court’s ruling. It is good to see the FCC getting on with this important business. Preserving a neutral and nondiscriminatory Internet is crucial for Internet users and innovators alike, so it can’t be left to chance.

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The Dangers of “Sponsored Data”

AT&T this week announced a new program under which providers of online services or apps can negotiate special deals to “sponsor” data usage by AT&T mobile customers, allowing those customers to use the services or apps without it counting towards their bandwidth caps. The argument for this idea is that consumers get some relief from the feeling that the data meter is always running, and online services get a way to overcome possible consumer reluctance to make full use of data-intensive services. But if AT&T’s model were to catch on widely, it would carry serious risks to the Internet’s open and innovative nature.

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CDT and Allies Urge Court To Protect Cloud Computing

Efforts by Aereo and an apparent copycat service called FilmOnX to deliver broadcast television over the Internet have prompted multiple copyright lawsuits and drawn considerable media attention. Yesterday, CDT and several trade associations warned the DC Circuit that the stakes in this litigation extend well beyond television. In an amicus brief in an appeal involving FilmOnX, CDT urged that whichever party prevails, the court must take care not to disturb the key legal principles that have enabled the rise of cloud computing.

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