Broadband Internet

FCC’s Proposed Cybersecurity Regulation Fatally Flawed

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Cybersecurity, Public Safety | No Comments

For most people, the hardest part of their last few days on the job is finding the motivation to tie up loose ends before they leave. This should have been easy for the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, who left the agency upon President Trump’s inauguration. After Trump’s election victory, congressional leadership advised Wheeler to focus his staff’s energies on consensus and administrative matters and to avoid complex or controversial issues.

Wheeler didn’t take their advice. Just two days before Trump’s inauguration, Wheeler’s FCC issued a white paper asserting that the agency (1) has jurisdiction to comprehensively regulate cybersecurity for commercial communications networks and (2) should regulate the cybersecurity practices of broadband internet service providers (ISPs) and other sectors of the communications industry.

The FCC’s report is not only complex and controversial, its key conclusions are wrong. Like the analysis in so many other items the Wheeler FCC issued, the report just presumes the agency has authority to do whatever it likes with regard to cybersecurity. It doesn’t. Congress has determined that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the appropriate forum for addressing cybersecurity, not the FCC.

The FCC’s view of the cybersecurity marketplace is also based on something other than reality. Compelling evidence shows that market forces are in fact incentivizing substantial investment in the deployment of cybersecurity protections without the FCC’s interference. Read More

Lame Duck FCC Claims Free Data Harms Consumers?

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Video, Wireless | No Comments

Free data plans like T-Mobile’s Binge On let consumers stream internet video without counting their data usage toward monthly caps. The Federal Communications Commission has recognized these plans can benefit consumers and competition. What’s not to like about free data?

According to the lame duck FCC, the answer depends on who’s offering it. The FCC’s outgoing chairman said T-Mobile’s Binge On service is pro-competitive and pro-innovation. According to a recent FCC letter, however, it’s “anticompetitive” when AT&T gives free data to its mobile customers who subscribe to DirecTV’s streaming video service. That’s par for the course with the current FCC, which is more interested in picking industry’s winners and losers than protecting consumers.

That appears to be what the FCC is doing in this case. The agency’s letter acknowledges that AT&T offers the same payment terms to all companies that want to take advantage of free data services. AT&T doesn’t treat DirecTV any differently than it treats Netflix, Hulu, or any other video streaming provider. Read More

Tech Knowledge Statement: Trump Victory A New Hope For FCC

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Regulatory State | No Comments

Haymarket, VA, November 9, 2016 – Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, issued the following statement regarding the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States:

“Trump’s victory offers new hope that the Federal Communications Commission will renew its faith in the dynamism of private enterprise and the competitive spirit. The agency’s pre-Obama policy of relying primarily on competitive market forces to drive investment and innovation in communications networks and services enabled the dynamic internet economy that we know and love. The Obama Administration’s love for top-down government mandates threatened to destroy that economy, but it’s not too late. The Trump Administration has a prime opportunity to level the playing field at the FCC and work with Congress on legislation that will benefit all Americans.”

Tech Knowledge promotes market-oriented technology policies on behalf of the public interest. Additional information about Tech Knowledge can be found on our website, techknowledge.center.

Tech Knowledge Statement on FCC’s Business Data Services Proposal

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Regulatory State | No Comments

Haymarket, VA, October 7, 2016 – Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, issued the following statement regarding the FCC’s proposal to impose new price regulations and classify packet-based business data services as a common carrier service:

“The FCC’s proposal to subject packet-based business data connections to its Title II jurisdiction reveals the terrible truth about Wheeler’s approach to net neutrality — the alleged need to protect edge providers using Title II was merely an excuse for the FCC to regulate the internet from end-to-end just like it once regulated the plain old telephone network.

There is no edge provider justification for the FCC to dictate terms in commercial disputes involving data connections for big businesses. The proposal is nothing more than 1930’s style government intervention for the sake of helping businesses the current administration favors at the expense of those it doesn’t. The other commissioners should reject Wheeler’s latest attempt at government economic planning 2.0 and let all carriers compete on an equal footing.”

Tech Knowledge promotes market-oriented technology policies on behalf of the public interest. Additional information about Tech Knowledge can be found on our website, techknowledge.center.

How The Obama Administration Is Rewriting Competition Law At The FCC

Posted by | Antitrust, Broadband Internet, Internet Analogies, Net Neutrality Series 2.0 | No Comments

In his first presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama said “antitrust is the American way to make capitalism work for consumers,” because, “unlike some forms of government regulation, it ensures that firms can reap the rewards of doing a better job” and “insists that customers … are the judges of what best serves their needs.” Obama vowed to “reinvigorate antitrust enforcement” and work with other jurisdictions to “curb the growth of international cartels” so that “all Americans benefit from a growing and healthy competitive free-market economy.”

Regrettably, the Obama presidency’s competition policies have not matched his campaign rhetoric. According to Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan, Obama has not reinvigorated antitrust enforcement: “With only a few exceptions, current enforcement looks much like enforcement under the Bush Administration.”

Obama has instead shown a strong preference for relying on other forms of government competition regulation — the kind that prevents firms from reaping the rewards of their investments in American infrastructure and limits what customers can demand — while complaining about the antitrust enforcement efforts of other jurisdictions that might affect U.S corporate interests. In the process, the Obama Administration has slowly been rewriting U.S. competition law in unprecedented ways.

This process has been especially apparent in communications regulation at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Though it was once seen as a “sleepy backwater,” the FCC has radically transformed its approach to competition law during the Obama Administration. The FCC’s new approach to competitive analyses runs the risks of spillover to interpretation of antitrust laws and speculation regarding the limits of government intervention in business transactions throughout the economy. Read More

Statement on Court Reversing FCC’s Municipal Broadband Order

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Regulatory State | No Comments

Haymarket, VA, August 10, 2016 – Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, issued the following statement regarding the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision reversing the FCC’s rule preempting state-level restrictions on municipal broadband deployments:

“The court’s ruling makes doubly clear that the FCC does not have the power to pick the decision maker in non-federal government infrastructure projects. The FCC’s rule let local city officials make broadband deployment decisions throughout entire states, despite contrary decisions by state-level officials. This attempt by the FCC to ‘reorder the decision-making structure of a state and its municipalities trenches on the core sovereignty of that state.’

There are other good reasons why the FCC shouldn’t be interposing itself into relationships between state and local government officials. Geographic, economic, and other factors can vary widely across a single state, which puts state-level officials in a better position to serve state-wide interests than municipal officials. And one-size-fits-all policies designed by federal bureaucrats in Washington can be a particularly blunt instrument for dealing with the diverse needs of different states. Many municipal broadband deployments have ended in failures that ended up costing taxpayers.

The current FCC’s preference for ubiquitous fiber deployments despite their enormous costs — the FCC’s chief strategist declared, ‘I wouldn’t move to a place that just has fixed wireless’ — is likely unreasonable in most rural areas. The risks of pushing a fiber-only policy were highlighted just yesterday by Google’s surprise announcement that it’s putting plans on hold to provide fiber internet in Silicon Valley while it explores more cost-effective wireless alternatives. If the largest company in the world (Google) can’t justify the cost of fiber in the wealthy enclaves of Silicon Valley, it’s hard to see how the FCC can justify overriding the judgments of state officials in a starry-eyed push for nationwide fiber deployment.

This ruling means the FCC can’t gamble on its fiber internet agenda using the states’ money.”

Tech Knowledge promotes market-oriented technology policies on behalf of the public interest. Additional information about Tech Knowledge can be found on our website, techknowledge.center.

Tech Knowledge Reply Comments In BDS Proceeding

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Wireless | No Comments

Today, Tech Knowledge filed the following comments at the Federal Communications Commission in its proceeding to regulate business data services (BDS). 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

Tech Knowledge submits these comments to emphasize a single point: the data does not support arguments that prospective 5G deployments require price regulation of fiber-based wireless backhaul in any market. Read More

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

Tech Knowledge Statement On Federal Court’s Net Neutrality Ruling

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Freedom of Speech, Net Neutrality Series 2.0 | No Comments

Haymarket, VA, June 14, 2016 – Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, issued the following statement regarding the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the FCC’s most recent net neutrality rules:

“For the first time in history, a federal court has granted the government the power to regulate the press as if it were a public utility. The First Amendment’s protection for the freedom of the press has never been in greater jeopardy.

Make no mistake — this opinion marks a fundamental change in First Amendment law. Until today, the federal courts interpreted the First Amendment as prohibiting the FCC from regulating the transmission of video content and the distribution of newspapers as common carriage. Today’s decision abandons this protection for the freedom of the press and gives government the right to censor the news by imposing restrictions on its distribution.

This decision is a victory for government censorship and a stunning defeat for the free press. It’s now up to the Supreme Court to protect the First Amendment principles that form the foundation of a free and open society.”

Tech Knowledge promotes market-oriented technology policies on behalf of the public interest. Additional information about Tech Knowledge can be found on our website, techknowledge.center.

Tech Knowledge Reply Comments in FCC ‘Set-Top Box’ Proceeding

Posted by | Broadband Internet, Video | No Comments

On Monday, Tech Knowledge filed the following reply comments at the Federal Communications Commission in its proceeding to impose wholesale unbundling regulations on cable and satellite video programming in the guise of regulating set-top boxes. The complete comments as filed can be downloaded from the FCC’s website in PDF format HERE. (Note, the HTLM version of the reply comments printed below does not contain the footnotes or appendices provided in the PDF version that was filed at the FCC.)

Executive Summary

The arguments made by proponents of the Wholesale Proposal affirm that its true purpose is to limit MVPDs’ ability to exercise editorial discretion by forcibly overwriting MVPDs’ video interfaces. The Communications Act, previous FCC findings, judicial precedent, and scientific studies in behavioral economics all demonstrate that the interface between consumers and MVPDs’ video programing is itself a form of speech or is otherwise entitled to First Amendment protection because it is intrinsic to MVPDs’ exercise of editorial discretion.

Consider Amazon’s example in its comments in this proceeding — that the Wholesale Proposal would enable Amazon to suggest that an MVPD subscriber watch Amazon’s own programming rather than an MVPDs’ program. In the context of the printed news, that would be equivalent to a rule permitting the Washington Post (a newspaper owned by Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos) to slap a new front page on the Washington Examiner that contains the Post’s chosen headlines and a message directing Examiner subscribers to read the Post instead. Though the Examiner’s subscribers would still have access to the Examiner’s content as a technical matter (by turning the page), the rule would have the effect of compelling the Examiner to publish (or subsidize the publishing of) that which it does not want to publish (the Post’s headlines and advertising messages) while effectively overriding the Examiner’s editorial decisions about what should be considered the “front page news” of the day. Similarly, the Wholesale Proposal would force MVPDs to publish that which they do not want to publish (i.e., mandatory “information flows”) in order to enable third-parties to direct MVPD subscribers to watch third-party programming (and its associated advertising) that displaces MVPDs’ own decisions regarding what programming should be highlighted on the video interface’s “front page.” Whether applied to print or video, such a rule would cut straight through the heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedom.

Shifting control over the video choice architecture (and corresponding profits) from MVPDs (and the video programming vendors with whom they negotiate content licenses) to Internet software companies (and their affiliated video programming vendors) would threaten the free flow of information and ideas by concentrating control over the video interface in the hands of a few, giant Internet software companies. Read More