FCC Plans Net Neutrality Vote in February

Comcast Today: Company future could be on the line.

Welcome to the new year, Comcast followers! It’s going to be a big one for the company. It will or won’t get its merger with Time Warner Cable approved; the FCC will or won’t impose new net neutrality rules that could affect the company’s plans for the digital future. 2015 is going to be meaningful.

Let’s start with the FCC. The Washington Post reports:

Federal regulators looking to place restrictions on Internet providers will introduce and vote on new proposed net neutrality rules in February, Federal Communications Commission officials said Friday.

President Obama’s top telecom regulator, Tom Wheeler, told fellow FCC commissioners before the Christmas holiday that he intends to circulate a draft proposal internally next month with an eye toward approving the measure weeks later, said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agency’s deliberations are ongoing. The rules are meant to keep broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast from speeding up or slowing down some Web sites compared to others.

Comcast, you’ll recall, says it favors net neutrality — but opposes the proposal that would enshrine it in law by treating Internet providers (like Comcast) as a utility. “Doing so would harm future innovation and investment in broadband and is not necessary to put in place strong and enforceable Open Internet protections,” David Cohen, Comcast’s executive vice president, wrote in a November blog post.

One problem for Comcast’s position on that: Google differs. Time reports:

In fact, in a letter to the FCC on Tuesday, Google Director of Communications Austin C. Schlick wrote that stronger regulations could actually be a boon for Internet speeds and infrastructure investment.

That’s because reclassifying Internet service providers (ISPs) so that they fall under the legal umbrella of a “public service” would change the rules of the game in ways that could be beneficial for new Internet service providers (ISPs), Schlick wrote.

For example, reclassification would require telephone companies, like AT&T and Verizon, to allow new ISPs access to some of their existing infrastructure, including their utility poles. Telephone companies are already required to share that infrastructure with other telecom and cable providers, but so far have not been required to extend that access to broadband only services, too.

You might understand why Comcast, which built its infrastructure and spent the money to do it, might be against being forced to share its pipes with competitors. BGR observes: “So to recap: Title II reclassification would not only slap ISPs with regulations they don’t want to deal with but it would also open the door for Google Fiber in more markets. If that’s not Comcast’s worst nightmare, I don’t know what is.”

One other Comcastic headline today:

Comcast and Time Warner Cable hike modem fees as much as 33%. Time to buy your own. Comcast and Time Warner Cable have just raised fees for renting a modem so high that it now makes sense to buy your own. Even if it’s a headache installing it. The price hikes are significant: Time Warner Cable’s fee is leaping from $5.99 to $8, and Comcast’s fee is jumping from $8 to $10.If you buy a Motorola SB6121 modem, it’ll pay for itself in less than a year. If you buy the faster Motorola SBG6580 (modems don’t have sexy or memorable names), it’ll pay for itself in just over a year. Be warned: Buying your own modem requires homework. Not all modems are compatible with Time Warner Cable and Comcast homes. (CNN)