2016 July

Tech Knowledge Comments on FCC Privacy Proceeding

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Freedom of Speech, Privacy | No Comments

Yesterday Tech Knowledge filed the following comments at the Federal Communications Commission in its proceeding on the application of section 222 to broadband internet access service. The complete comments as filed can be downloaded in PDF format HERE. (Note, the HTLM version of the comments printed below does not contain the footnotes provided in the PDF version available at the link above and filed at the FCC.)

Introduction

Unlike the “telecommunications” traffic carried by the plain old telephone network, internet traffic is valued by advertisers. The data generated by internet traffic is so valuable that at least half of the internet’s economic value is based on the collection of individual user data (primarily for advertising) and most commercial content on the Internet relies on advertising to some extent. “Advertising lessens the cost that each user must pay to receive the benefits of the Internet, and expands the size of the system that society can afford to have.” To put this in perspective, the market for digital advertising ($59.6 billion) is now three times larger than the market for broadcast television advertising ($18.6 billion), and digital advertising is still growing at double-digit rates (20.4% in 2015) while broadcast television advertising is stagnant or declining. Just as watching ads is part of the price consumers pay for free broadcast television, providing access to user data is part of the price consumers pay for the internet as we know it today. Whatever benefits consumers might derive from more stringent regulation of internet data practices will necessarily involve a tradeoff in terms of higher costs — like the premium consumers pay for video services that do not sell advertising (e.g., HBO Now at $14.99 per month).

The FCC’s decision to regulate the usage of internet data for marketing purposes thus raises a central question: When and under what circumstances are the costs imposed on consumers by particular ex ante prohibitions on internet marketing (including costs to market competition) fully offset by the benefits consumers would derive from preventing such use of their data in those circumstances? Read More