Category Archives: FCC

Automating Influence: The Manipulation of Public Debate

By Andrew Trabulsi – While the application of influence campaigns for the purposes of altering public discourse and politics are rapidly gaining prominence, it’s a field, as discussed in previous writings, with a detailed past.

Tasked with winning the moral high ground during World War I, the famed British propaganda unit, Wellington House, distributed evocative, explicit reports of German barbarism to bolster public opinion in favor of the Allies. At a time before the interminable ubiquity of Internet communications, this tactic proved invaluable in securing the attention and support of the Allies’ war effort, improving recruiting and persuading neutrals.

Today, we see such tactics—albeit in different, non-traditional fashions—show up across case studies, for both political and commercial purposes. In a similar vein to the manipulation of public commentary on net neutrality, when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed adjusting its rules to stunt abuse within payday lending markets, it too was berated with an abnormal number of duplicate and semantically similar comments.

As political and economic issues become increasingly influenced by technological engagement, it’s becoming more and more important to understand the limitations and vulnerabilities of such systems. more>

A goal realized: Network lobbyists’ sweeping capture of their regulator

By Tom Wheeler – “Here’s how the telecom industry plans to defang their regulators,” a September 12, 2013 Washington Post headline announced. “[T]elecom giants including Verizon, AT&T and Comcast have launched multiple efforts to shift regulation of their broadband business to other agencies that don’t have nearly as much power as the FCC,” the article explained.

The companies’ goal: to move regulatory jurisdiction from the Federal Communications Commission to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Strategically, it is a brilliant sleight of hand since the FTC has no rulemaking authority and no telecommunications expertise, yet the companies and the policymakers who support them can trot out the line that the FTC will protect consumers.

With this vote, the FCC walked away from over a decade of bipartisan efforts to oversee the fairness and openness of companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Charter, and Verizon. These four companies control over 75 percent of the residential internet access in America, usually through a local monopoly. Henceforth, they will be able to make their own rules, subject only to very limited after-the-fact review.

The assertion that the FTC will be able to provide that protection adequately is an empty promise. The people at the FTC are good people, but they have neither network expertise, nor the authority to make rules. more>

Network industry is operating on flawed foundational principles


By George Mattathil – In a nutshell, the current situation with cyber security [2] is the direct result of the developments during the the “internet bubble,” in the 1990s. Collapse of the Bell Labs permitted the unchecked growth of the “internet bubble” and related hype.

The divestiture and the collapse of the Bells Labs left a vacuum for network technology leadership, that was substituted by hype that surrounded the “internet mania.” As a result, current network industry is operating on flawed foundational principles.

This added to the deficiencies in economic decision systems for (network) technology adoption, with the results we are seeing today: cyber security [2] challenges, internet malware [2] attacks and political controversies [2].

One of the consequences of the flawed network foundations is that the Broadband [2] adoption (which includes IoT) is progressing much slower than it could.

Another side effect is that ongoing network deployments are architecturally incoherent, resulting in enhanced complexity and cost. more>

Network Neutrality Can’t Fix the Internet

The FCC is poised to dismantle common carriage for broadband and wireless providers. That’s bad, but the internet itself is worse.
By Ian Bogost – It makes sense to construe broadband and wireless providers as common carriers, like telephone companies and utilities. And a majority of Americans, no matter their affiliation, support regulating internet providers in this manner.Security breaches, privacy violations, election meddling, wealth inequality, and a host of other concerns have sullied the tech sector’s reputation.

A public darling during the Obama years, when net neutrality won out, the tech industry has effectively become Big Tech, an aggressor industry along the lines of pharmaceuticals, oil, or tobacco.Local retailers have to manage their searchability on Google, or pay for ads to compete with big companies like Amazon. Restaurants must make sure they’re listed on Google Maps and Yelp and OpenTable.

Creating a mobile app requires payment of registration fees for listing products on the Google or Apple app stores, and a substantial commission on every sale or subscription.

If the internet is to remain a public utility, it must also become a public utility worth using, and one that doesn’t dismantle the society that would use it through neglect and deceit and malice.

It’s time to stop treating the internet as a flawless treasure whose honor must be protected from desecration. It hasn’t been such for a long time, if indeed it ever was. more>

The FCC’s net neutrality proposal: A shameful sham that sells out consumers

By Tom Wheeler – Fighting against monopolization in the internet era…meet ideologically-driven “do what the big guys want.”

A fair and open internet is the backbone of the digital economy. The FCC has sold out to the wishes of the companies it is supposed to regulate over the consumers it is supposed to protect.

For more than a decade, previous Republican and Democratic FCCs have tried to bring fairness and balance to the delivery of the internet to consumers. Every one of those efforts has been opposed by the corporations that consumers rely on to deliver the internet. Now the Trump FCC has simply cut to the chase, there is no need for the big companies to sue—they’ll just be given everything they want.

The assertion that the FCC proposal is somehow pro-consumer is a sham that doesn’t pass the straight-face test. It is impossible to find anything pro-consumer in the expert telecommunications agency walking away from its responsibilities in favor of an agency with no telecommunications expertise or authority. more>

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Broadband gaps impact every member of Congress

By Adie Tomer – Digital connectivity is the glue of the modern American economy. From rural farmers to city business leaders, every industry relies on broadband to track markets, connect with customers, and sell their products. The American household is equally reliant on broadband, whether its kids bringing home their digital classrooms, adults telecommuting to their jobs, or whole families streaming video content to their televisions. And governments at all levels can use digital platforms to improve service delivery and reduce costs.

Yet for all of broadband’s economic benefits, the country continues to face a significant digital divide at the household level.

Without seamless digital connectivity, many households are at-risk of falling further behind in the country’s advanced economy.

While Congress considers policies related to expanding broadband availability, there is little to no legislative activity related to broadband adoption. more>

Who should lead internet policy?

By Tom Wheeler – The tremor in Silicon Valley emerged from Brussels, not the San Andreas Fault. The European Union’s decision on Google’s search practices makes clear the absence of domestic regulation has opened the door for policies to be decided by foreign governments.

It should be a worry – and a wake-up – for all the companies whose platforms drive internet services.

Thanks to the interconnectedness of the internet, imposing rules in one major market necessarily impacts operations in other markets. While the internet platform companies may celebrate how they have avoided regulation at home, it does not mean they have avoided government oversight – just that such policies come from other governments. And because the effects of a keystroke can circle the world in seconds, policy imposed by the EU, for instance, can be felt far beyond the European continent.

While protecting consumers and competition is their goal, it would be an unnatural act for foreign regulators not to take into consideration the effect the internet giants have on companies in the countries of those regulators.

Thus, the question occurs whether the success of the U.S. internet giants in keeping their own government at arms’ length is not actually counter-productive.

Rather than the U.S. setting the international standard for appropriate oversight of the platforms of the internet – and in doing so advancing and protecting American economic influence, consumer interests and innovation – the U.S. internet companies’ actions have defaulted the leadership to other countries with perhaps other goals. more> https://goo.gl/XFu73j

Net neutrality 2.0: Perspectives on FCC regulation of internet service providers

By Stuart N. Brotman – The final outcome of this high-profile, high-impact proceeding will not be apparent until sometime late in 2017, at the earliest. Congress may also become more seriously involved at some point on the legislative front.

But without a doubt, as Chairman Pai noted in his Newseum speech, a “fierce debate” lies ahead for a number of months at least. And if past is prologue, the FCC may well receive an avalanche of comments in response to these proposed changes; the record in the Title II Order shows that over four million comments were filed by interested parties and the general public combined.

There will be no lack of political discourse, to be sure.

As we move into 2016, an unresolved national communications policy dilemma remains: whether the public-switched telephone network and the internet are parallel systems or parts of a larger ubiquitous network environment. Determining which characterization will be followed has profound consequences for regulatory treatment.

Given the emerging dominance of mobile over fixed service, if the FCC can’t regulate both, it may win the battle but lose the war. Given that a further appeal is likely regardless of which side prevails, including possible review by the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress may find itself re-emerging as the best source of guidance for the FCC. Legislative action can definitively clarify whether Congress intends for the telephone network and internet to be joined at the hip, or should continue to function in parallel with differing regulatory treatment. more> https://goo.gl/f4x8Uh

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All The Things Wrong With the Web Today, According to its Inventor

By Joon Ian Wong – Tim Berners-Lee isn’t particularly pleased with the way things have gone with his creation.

Advertising’s pernicious effect on the news. The web is cleaving into the haves and have-nots of news readership. Wealthy readers will pay to opt out of advertising; less privileged readers will have to stick with news that’s ad-supported,

Social networks are ignoring their responsibility to the truth. Social networks absorb their users’ personal data, but wind up “disempowering” those same users by isolating them from the wider web,

Online privacy is a “human right” that’s being trampled. Government surveillance and corporate monetization of personal data threaten web users’ right to privacy. more> https://goo.gl/kqgTNp

What’s Wrong With America’s Current Approach to Cybersecurity?

By Gregory Michaelidis – Go behind the headlines of the latest megahack, and what you’ll find is a growing public-safety and national-security crisis.

We are barely discussing how to help people help themselves in the digital world, let alone do their part in protecting our major networks and critical infrastructure.

Until we embrace a vision of public cybersecurity that sees people, at all ranges of skill, as essential to our collective security, there will be no widespread cybersecurity.

Right now, America’s collective cybersecurity effort is headed toward near-certain failure for reasons within our own control. In less than a decade — thanks to the influx of dollars and high-level policy and press attention — cybersecurity has transformed what is actually a “people problem with a technology component” into its exact opposite.

Official Washington and Silicon Valley have adopted a set of faulty assumptions about cybersecurity and internalized them to such a degree it’s practically a new religion, somewhere between late-19th-century technological determinism and medieval alchemy. more>