Gary wants to know more about cutting cable television, and wants to know what his options would be to avoid mobile phone contracts too. Gary spends about $150 a month for two smartphones, and spends $150 on cable TV.
Steve is considering the Ooma VOIP phone service, but he's concerned about net neutrality and how it will affect him. Leo says that's what's happening in Canada right now as the ISPs who also offer phone service, are buffering or flat out dropping Skype calls to frustrate that. It's very anti-competitive. What Leo suggests is that before Steve buy Ooma, that he should spend time using Skype so he can gauge how voice over IP works. There are some drawbacks.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed rules that threaten the free an open internet that we enjoy today. Under the new rules, content providers would have to pay for premium access to customers. Larger companies such as Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon would be able to pay these access fees. But smaller startups or individuals with little funding would not be able to afford this, and would be at a competitive disadvantage. The internet is full of innovations that started as small startups with little funding, like Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, and even Google.
Rusty makes video games and he's concerned with the FCC's new Net Neutrality rules. Leo says that the FCC is now taking public comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leo says that latency through buffering would kill video gaming, as players would be too frustrated with it. So a free and open internet would be vital for gaming. The big guys would be able to pay for unhindered access, but the individual developers won't be able to. Innovation doesn't work that way.
This week, the FCC proposed new rules that would allow companies to pay for better access to customers. What's even more shocking and disappointing is that Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, is a former chairman of companies in both the cable and wireless industries. Even though he says "we still believe in an open Internet," Leo says it's a bald face lie. These rules, Leo says, will gut the FCC's ability to protect an open Internet.
Steve signed up for a VPN in order to bypass the bottlenecks brought about by his ISP and Netflix. Leo says that's an interesting solution as the data would be encrypted and the ISP wouldn't know what the data is. Leo says ISPs are slowing down the traffic by 33%, and it's terrible that they do it. VPNs could be a solution to that. However, it also delays his signal because of the overhead of encryption and decryption that would be required. Since Netflix is paying Comcast now for preferred traffic access, a VPN would actually slow the signal down.
Explaining that he had no choice but to pay Comcast's "toll" to allow users to stream Netflix content, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings blasted the cable company for anti-competitive behavior. "The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don't restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make," wrote Hastings on the Netflix blog. "The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient."
Steve loves watching Netflix but he's not getting a consistent connection. Leo says that consistency is the key for Netflix streaming. Steve's provider may be artificially slowing down the service in order to make him want to buy their competing services. That's what Comcast did. He could try using a wired connection instead of than Wi-Fi. Steve can also try using AppleTV. The streaming is far better because Apple routes the streaming through their own data center.
Ed wants to know about the Netflix and Comcast deal and how it will affect users of the services. Leo says that Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast for access to it's customers without buffering. Suddenly, over the last few months, the service was unwatchable on Comcast because of constant buffering. Leo wonders if Comcast intentionally slowed down Netflix traffic to blackmail them for extra money. Comcast is now double dipping, getting payment from users, and from providers for the same traffic. This is pretty anti competitive.
Andrew isn't thrilled about the latest Net Neutrality ruling. Leo says that he thinks the media used a bit of gloom and doom reporting it. All the judge said was that the FCC didn't have jurisdiction over the Internet. The FCC has jurisdiction over common carriers, and broadband providers haven't been declared as common carriers. Leo says that we'll have to fight against discrimination of data. Bits are bits and it should stay that way.