The Internet has never been more important.
That’s why the government has invested billions in fiber optic cables and wired internet connections to deliver Internet access to more Americans.
But it has never worked as seamlessly and efficiently as it is today.
In fact, it is still getting a lot worse.
According to the US Government Accountability Office, there are about half a million internet connections in the US that are “outages.”
The agency estimates that that number could rise to three million by 2020, when more than half of the country’s households will have at least one internet connection.
And the number of “outage-prone” connections is expected to increase by 30% by 2025.
This is why the FCC and the FCC’s commissioners have been working with Congress to establish rules that would protect the network and keep the Internet working smoothly for everyone.
But the rules haven’t been a simple affair.
There’s no unified definition of what constitutes an outage.
There is a spectrum of technologies and standards that are used by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to classify outages as dangerous or harmful, and these definitions vary widely.
The FCC’s definition of a network outage is defined as “a significant loss of network capacity, especially with respect to the use of a particular Internet protocol, resulting in a substantial degradation in the availability of the Internet.”
But the definition of an “out-of-band” (OUB) outage is much more vague.
The FCC defines an OUB outage as, “The disruption of a telephone network by a system failure.”
This definition excludes out-of network services like dial-up internet, which is currently used by a huge number of households, but which are often not connected to the internet at all.
And there are some out-with-the-wire internet providers that aren’t technically OUB providers.
But those are also not considered a major problem by the FCC.
This is why many rural communities have complained about the FCC, which regulates those providers, as well as the broadband companies, which have been able to get away with throttling speeds for years.
The OUB definition is also not uniform across the country.
Some states use different definitions for outages.
For example, in Georgia, the FCC uses a “serious” or “significant” network failure that is described as a “loss of broadband service,” which is defined by the agency as “the disruption of the telephone network due to a system fault or malfunction.”
In some cases, the definition is so vague that the FCC doesn’t even know what a serious network failure is.
For instance, in Alabama, the Department of Justice has recently filed suit against broadband providers for throttling the speeds of the internet to the point that it’s unusable.
The definition of “network outages” has also been changed multiple times.
In 2015, the OUB rule was changed to include all “out” events.
But the FCC has also moved the definition around several times, with the latest change taking effect in 2020.
The new definition now includes “a major loss of bandwidth, including loss of service on a fiber optic cable.”
But what happens when a major network outage occurs?
What happens when your Internet provider is throttling you for no reason at all?
These are the questions that have dogged the FCC since it began regulating the broadband industry.
“It’s important to note that we do not regulate Internet providers,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters in January, “We do not have an Internet infrastructure or infrastructure standards that govern the availability and quality of Internet service.
That is a regulatory responsibility.”
But Wheeler said the FCC is taking this issue seriously.
“The Commission has been actively working to ensure that we have an appropriate, consistent, and effective approach to network outages and to network reliability,” he said in a statement.
“Our approach will focus on ensuring that the availability, reliability, and quality are met by providers that have the technical know-how and capacity to deliver the best possible network,” he added.
The problem with the OUD definition is that the definition doesn’t distinguish between outages that are caused by “a system failure,” “an out-in-band system failure” and “system failure on a cable network.”
In some states, providers can also be held liable for out-out-with the network problems caused by their own outages, but not for network out-outs caused by a cable or DSL provider.
As Wheeler noted, the “OUD definition does not differentiate between out-at-the–wire outages caused by cable or broadband and out-between-the wires outages due to the inability of the cable provider to provide adequate network capacity or to provide a network with sufficient bandwidth to meet the demands of a growing number of consumers.”
The FCC has tried to correct this problem by adopting a “network reliability framework” that defines the “quality” of the network as being “at least as good as the best network of comparable quality” that is available from a competing provider. But this