The Luminousis developer community has been in the crosshairs of the Federal Communications Commission since the agency began requiring internet service providers to provide “essential network maintenance and repair” to broadband subscribers.
In a recent decision, the FCC announced that its broadband providers must provide at least three months of service interruption for any device or service that the FCC deems an “urgent telecommunications service.”
The move follows FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s announcement in March that the agency will no longer require ISPs to maintain “essential” network maintenance.
However, the commission’s “urgency” is not a direct result of its decision to scrap the FCC’s network maintenance mandate.
Instead, the agency has relied on a broader set of technical measures designed to mitigate the effects of a lack of qualified developers, and the result has been a “collapse” in the development community, according to a recent report by the FCC.
“It’s a tragic outcome,” David Smith, president of the non-profit Community Development Council of California, told Ars.
“If we don’t have enough developers, it means we don-t have the developer community.”
According to the report, the network maintenance requirement has meant that many of the most promising early-stage startups, including the company behind Luminous, have had to “dismantle” and “end the lives of their projects” to get a foothold.
For example, Luminous is a developer network.
But because the FCC has no clear criteria for which networks are considered essential, it’s unclear whether the network-maintenance requirement is an exception to the rule, or if other networks are also required.
“Essential networks are networks that are essential for providing service,” said Smith.
“But there is no clear definition for the essentialness of these networks.”
For example: If the FCC requires that a broadband provider must provide internet service to a device or device service for a period of one year or less, what is the standard that defines “essential”?
In other words, is the requirement merely that a device must be able to run software for one year, or does the FCC require a more thorough evaluation of the potential benefits of the network to ensure that it can remain essential for a longer period?
If a device cannot operate software for a specified period of time, can a device that’s a part of a network continue to operate software?
If the network is essential, is it enough for a device to have a “continuous state of operation”?
“Essentially, what the FCC is asking us to do is give up a lot of our flexibility, which is really good for a developer community,” said Dan Wojcicki, co-founder of the Los Angeles-based startup LaunchLab, which offers software development tools to startups and small businesses.
“I would like to see a better definition of essentiality, and we can’t have that if we’re not providing sufficient infrastructure.”
The FCC’s announcement of its plan to end network maintenance is not the only reason that the community is losing ground.
Many of the same questions that have plagued the development industry are now plaguing the community.
The FCC has not provided a clear definition of what is “essential,” which means that the definition of network maintenance that will be the primary focus of the FCC rulemaking process is open to interpretation.
“The FCC has said that the essential network maintenance requirements are for the network, and they have not clarified how that’s going to apply to broadband,” said Wojcki.
“So I don’t know what the rules are going to be.”
As a result, the industry is not sure if the FCC will allow the community to continue to rely on the “essential service” definition, or whether the FCC itself will allow it to continue operating under that definition.
“Luminosity has built a lot into its business model on a very strong business model: the idea of providing network services to small businesses, which has a lot to do with our community,” Wojcki told Ars via email.
“When they were doing network maintenance, they didn’t have a lot that the government could say was essential.”
A recent study published by the University of California-Davis and the California Institute of Technology found that the average US developer has a “minimum of five” years of experience, and that they have an average of 10,000 projects to complete.
The report’s authors concluded that the network service requirements “are the most burdensome of any of the five essential service requirements.”
A separate study published last month by the Center for Internet Policy at the University the University at Buffalo found that of the top 50 US internet companies, only three have no network maintenance obligations.
These companies are: Cloudflare, a provider of network-related services; Comcast, a major ISP; and AT&T, the nation’s fourth-largest wireless carrier.
The study also found that all of the companies in the top 10 are also companies that have