The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an executive branch agency within the Department of Commerce, sparked controversy last year when it announced its intent to transition its oversight of Internet domain names to “the global multistakeholder community.” The controversy is now over. The NTIA no longer has authority to relinquish U.S. control over the Internet domain name system. Though few seem to have realized it, the FCC assumed plenary jurisdiction over Internet numbering in its 2015 net neutrality order reclassifying the broadband Internet as telecommunications (Reclassification Order). Read More
Advocates for increasing regulation of broadband providers in the United States frequently point to Europe’s highly regulated broadband market as an example the US should emulate — if only their claims were true. A new research report prepared by a PhD fellow in Internet economics at Aalborg University in Denmark concludes that, “The data unequivocally demonstrate that the US exceeds the EU [European Union] on a number of important broadband measures.”
The most dramatic difference is in the availability of high-speed Internet technologies, including Internet speeds of 100 Mbps or greater, fourth generation (4G) wireless LTE broadband, fiber to the home (FTTH), and broadband over cable systems. This chart comparing the availability of broadband technologies, which uses data from the report, illustrates the stark differences between broadband deployment in the US and the EU. (Click on the chart to enlarge it.)
Europe’s struggle with broadband availability is largely due to the lack of private investment in broadband infrastructure within the EU. Read More
From the time Tom Wheeler was nominated to become the next FCC Chairman, many have wondered, “What would Wheeler do?” Though it is still early in his chairmanship, the only ruling issued in Chairman Wheeler’s first meeting signals a pro-investment approach to communications regulation.
The declaratory ruling clarified that the FCC would evaluate foreign investment in broadcast licensees that exceeds the 25 percent statutory benchmark using its existing analytical framework. It had previously been unclear whether broadcasters were subject to the same standard as other segments of the communications industry. The ruling recognized that providing broadcasters with regulatory certainty in this respect would promote investment and that greater investment yields greater innovation.
The FCC’s decision to apply the same standards for reviewing foreign ownership of broadcasters as it applies to other segments of the communications industry is very encouraging. It affirms the watershed policy decisions in the USF/ICC Transformation Order, in which the FCC concluded that “leveling the playing field” promotes competition whereas implied subsidies deter investment and are “unfair for consumers.” Read More
The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held a hearing today to describe the tax practices of Apple, which has shifted $102 billion offshore to avoid paying U.S. income taxes, and offer recommendations to close offshore tax “loopholes”. Although Apple’s tax practices are not illegal, the hearing suggested that its practices were nevertheless scandalous. As recent revelations of abusive practices at the IRS illustrate, however, attempting to close a few tax loopholes won’t address the real scandal, which is our “bizarre and byzantine tax code.” The solution to this scandal is to dramatically simplify the tax code and abolish the IRS. Read More
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, I was surprised that nobody had access to 4G mobile Internet services. How could Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain and host to the “world’s premier mobile industry event,” lack access to 4G? In the opening day keynote session, Vittorio Colao, Vodafone’s CEO, said Europe has only 6% of the world’s LTE connections, and Telefónica’s CEO, César Alierta, said only 17% of European mobile subscribers have smartphones. European mobile operators agreed they are lagging the world in 4G deployment and penetration due to existing price regulations that discourage new infrastructure investments.
Europe now stands at a crossroads: Does it adopt the modern, investment-based approach toward wireless markets that made the US the world’s 4G leader, or does it further increase regulation and impose new obligations on “over the top” (e.g., Skype) services? Our history with the regulation of rural telephone companies demonstrates the perils of the second option. Yet European mobile operators appear ready to embrace new regulations as a means to enhance their business and create a “balanced relationship” with “US companies” that provide over the top (OTT) services. Read More
At yesterday’s oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US Senate, Commissioner McDowell said the rules governing the “C Block” in the upper 700 MHz band were responsible for its lack of interoperability. This wasn’t the first time someone has misunderstood what drove the development of the 700 MHz band plan in the US and the 3GPP process that developed LTE standards for the band, and I don’t expect it will be the last.
The 700 MHz band plan is complex and riddled with exceptions based on its unique history. I presented a keynote describing that history and its impact on the band to an international audience at 4G World last year. The keynote explained why the US couldn’t simply adopt the technically more efficient and interoperable “APT” band plan for 700 MHz that is preferred in Asia and was recently adopted by Mexico. The presentation I gave at 4G World is available here: 4G World 700 MHz Keynote.
In an opinion published in the Wall Street Journal last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski admonished us to keep “discussions focused on solving problems, and on facts and data” when evaluating his spectrum policy proposals. That sounds reasonable, and it could be persuasive, if the FCC based its spectrum policy on consistently applied facts and data.
The FCC has instead chosen to selectively manipulate the facts and data to support its desired policy outcomes. Within a single quarter, the FCC has simultaneously concluded that:
- 194 MHz of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band is available for mobile broadband services (note: when the FCC wants to show licensed spectrum in the US compares favorably with licensed spectrum on a global basis and that the ratio of licensed to unlicensed spectrum in the US is relatively balanced), and
- Only 55 MHz of the same 194 MHz in the 2.5 GHz band is available for mobile broadband services (note: when the FCC wants to deny a merger or limit the amount of spectrum available to disfavored competitors).
Neither the laws of physics and economics nor the regulations governing the 2.5 GHz band changed the actual facts and data in the intervening period between these inconsistent conclusions. The only things that changed were the results the FCC wanted to reach and the “facts and data” the FCC decided to present to the public. Read More
A quartet of industry leaders from around the globe provided their perspectives on the mobile Internet during this morning’s opening keynote session at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona: Randall Stephenson, President and CEO, AT&T; Xi Guohua, Chairman, China Mobile; César Alierta, Executive Chairman & CEO, Telefonica; and Vittorio Colao, Chief Executive, Vodafone. The keynote session provided a rare opportunity to see how international mobile operators view the revolutionary changes that are reshaping the mobile industry and our world. The most surprising revelation was the general consensus among this diverse group regarding the opportunities and challenges presented by the mobile Internet.
Last summer I blogged about my expectation that conservatives would embrace the Internet. Though many shared this expectation, I doubt anyone expected the Republican Party platform would provide a vision for transforming our communications infrastructure into the Twenty-First Century, or that conservatives would be leading Internet transformation in 2012. Though progressives are stereotypically viewed as tech-savvy, progressives are now following the lead of conservatives on Internet transformation.
Conservatives started leading on Internet issues early in 2012. Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell was outspoken often and early on the dangers posed to the Internet by the World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12), which is going on right now in Dubai.
Many in the tech blogosphere initially attacked McDowell. Last February, ExtremeTech said McDowell’s “claims [were] factually inaccurate and hyperbolic,” and that his threat assessment “[was] completely out-of-step with the US government’s opinion.” Though it offered no apology to McDowell, this month ExtremeTech finally recognized that the ongoing negotiations in Dubai “have the potential to completely change the way the internet works, and that is terrifying.”
The Daily Caller posted language from the draft 2012 Republican Party Platform this morning indicating the platform includes Internet freedom. The platform indicates conservatives have embraced Internet freedom based on the removal of barriers to infrastructure investment and resistance to international governance. Within the next ten years, Internet connectivity will form the foundation of economic growth and social discourse at home and abroad. For the United States to lead the world in the 21st Century, it must lead the transformation from outdated, analog communications infrastructures to fully digital networks capable of supporting the ultra fast Internet services of the future. Conservatives recognize the importance of the Internet to American leadership and that the nation’s success depends on the adoption of a visionary approach to communications policy.