Tag Archives: FCC

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>

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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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

A neat trick that makes political ads more effective

By Meredith McGehee – Why do supporters go to the trouble of creating innocuous-sounding groups that fund all the ads? Because it works.

Viewers are more likely to be persuaded by political TV ads, several recent studies reveal, when the groups behind them are undisclosed. The studies help explain why ads by secret independent groups have become the vehicle of choice in the 2016 presidential election.

Recognizing that it makes a big difference when a viewer or listener knows the actual sponsor behind an ad can help build a strong case for why the Federal Communications Commission needs to enforce on-air sponsorship requirements.

Even in the age of social media, television continues to stand out as “the most influential medium when it comes to voting behavior among all age groups and political affiliations,” according to a new study. So U.S. voters need to know who is behind the political ads broadcast on television. more> http://goo.gl/4L2t1O

Telecommunication Services

OECD – A technical standard may lock in a technology and its future development path. Therefore, setting standards too early may lead to the adoption of an inferior technology, while setting standards too late may result in a slower diffusion of the technology than would otherwise be the case.

Moreover, setting standards can under some circumstances result in higher prices and a less competitive market. For instance, when standards are proprietary and used strategically by incumbent firms, they may lead to higher prices and less competition than if different technologies competed for the market.

In any case, inter-operability among different services providers and technological compatibility are considered important for competitive markets and trade. more> http://tinyurl.com/mtl63lg

The FCC’s Net Neutrality Victory Is Anything But

By Geoffrey A. Manne – Almost no one really gets it. Fewer still understand Title II, the regulatory tool the FCC just invoked to impose its conception of net neutrality on the Internet.

And telecom lawyers? They love it: whatever happens, the inevitable litigation will mean a decade’s worth of job security.

Wheeler’s approach creates a host of other problems. Most important, it allows the FCC to regulate not just your (hated) broadband provider, but also your favorite internet services.

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly added: “If you’re looking for a lucrative business, you should be a telecom lawyer.” more> http://tinyurl.com/mpapbyo

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State of Telecommunications

By George Mattathil – First, Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communication Commission Chairman, must be congratulated for adroitly navigating the “net neutrality” whirlpools [2] and positioning the FCC as the champion of “fast, fair and open” internet.

However, there is a risk that future FCC may stray from the high ideals Chairman Wheeler has defined, and may misuse the newly acquired powers. While the FCC decision has brought regulatory clarity in the marketplace, the underlying causes for the market failure remain. more>

State of Telecommunications

First, Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communication Commission Chairman, must be congratulated for adroitly navigating the “net neutrality” whirlpools [2] and positioning the FCC as the champion of “fast, fair and open” internet. However, there is a risk that future FCC may stray from the high ideals Chairman Wheeler has defined, and may misuse the newly acquired powers. While the FCC decision has brought regulatory clarity in the marketplace, the underlying causes for the market failure remain.

I wrote in 2006, “Factoring implications of technology in business and economic decision making has not kept up with the increased role of technology in the economy.” The tortuous path the FCC took to reclassify internet as a telecommunication service provides an instructive example of the inadequacy of technology policy decision making.

In 2002 FCC decided that internet was an “information service” [2]. As the Internet usage grew, additional demands were placed on the network infrastructure, requiring acceptable new “codes of conduct” for network providers. Rather than continuing to invest in their existing infrastructure, the telecom carriers were enamored with improvements in wireless technology and invested heavily in it. The FCC obliged by permitting blocking and throttling of services for “network management purposes.” While there was an appearance of innovation and new investment by the telcos, in reality their decisions were driven primarily by financial objectives [2].

Initial internet growth was fueled by xDSL technologies. As the market demand grew cable companies started offering internet. But the FCC classified internet provided through cable networks as “information services.” The piecemeal regulatory decisions by the FCC over the years created absurdities. According to the FCC rules, Broadband was a telecommunication service using xDSL technologies subject to regulations, but an information service without regulations when provided using cable network. Verizon was unhappy that it was being regulated, while its competitor Comcast was not, and challenged the decision in the courts. The court upheld Verizon’s challenge and set aside the FCC internet regulations. The revised FCC decision simplifies and brings clarity and uniformity to Broadband regulations.

A review of history may be helpful to better understand the current telecom market configuration. Even though Graham Bell invented the telephone [2] in 1876, its universal adoption was long drawn out and traumatic. After realizing the potential, the then stockholders, in 1907, recruited Theodore Vail (again) to build an organization to fully develop the potential of the technology. Vail had previously demonstrated his organization skills at the Rail Mail Service. Vail realized that the communication possibilities offered by telephone connectivity made it a “natural monopoly.” Vail’s knowledge and insights helped him reach the consensus to make AT&T a government sanctioned monopoly [2]. In return, AT&T agreed to be regulated. To overcome the negative effects of a monopoly business, AT&T instituted a counter balancing organizational social mission – “a single communication system offering the best possible service.”

In later years, AT&T lost its zeal for the social mission. Along with other political factors, a series of developments resulted in the 1984 divestiture [2] and the current market configuration.

Now, telcos no longer have monopoly markets. And their mission has changed to providing the least amount of service to customers they can get away with maximum financial gain. In addition, Comcast is now the largest Broadband provider[2], with the revised FCC broadband definition. Comcast is enjoying “huge profits.” It is an indication of the high barriers to entry in the Broadband market. One of the reasons for the high barrier to entry is the lack of suitable technology for providing cost effective Broadband.

The FCC regulatory framework is based on the historical AT&T monopoly market conditions, when AT&T was also a leading technology developer [2] with social goals. The resource gaps for much needed broadband technology innovations remain unfilled in the current market configuration.

The FCC’s Latest Net Neutrality Proposal: Pros, Cons, and Question Marks

By Corynne McSherry – The FCC’s statements have stressed three bright-line rules.

These are all good ideas.

If net neutrality means anything, it means no unfair discrimination based on application or service, and these rules seem aimed at just that.

But there’s at least one worrisome bit: the repeated reference to “lawful content.”

Does the FCC intend to suggest that throttling unlawful content is OK?

How are ISPs to determine what is and is not lawful without snooping on their users? Can an ISP block access to the Pirate Bay without fear of violating open internet rules?

Another good idea is requiring providers to be more transparent. We can’t hold broadband providers accountable if we don’t know what they’re up to. more> http://tinyurl.com/mowh7rl

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Does the FCC really not get it about the Internet?

By Brett Frischmann – Who exactly are the end users that are not edge providers?

In other words, who uses the Internet but does not provide any content, application, or service? The answer is no one.

All end users provide content as they engage in communications with other end users, individually or collectively. YouTube content, for example, comes from end users uploading it.

What is the point of the provider/user distinction?

It appears to draw a line between (commercial) entities that generate a lot of traffic (and revenue) and those who don’t, but that is confused. more> http://tinyurl.com/p28kry7

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