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Posts Tagged ‘Federal Communications Commission’
September 30th, 2016 at 11:49 am
Positive News: FCC Delays Vote on Toxic TV Set-Top Box Scheme
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Good news within the federal regulatory leviathan has been depressingly rare, perhaps most of all at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  This week, however, brought a remarkably welcome development worthy of celebration.

Specifically, the FCC delayed its vote on a toxic and entirely unwarranted new proposal to regulate cable television set-top boxes before the Obama presidency’s clock expires, in what The Wall Street Journal labeled “a major blow to the proposal” and “a setback to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on one of his top priorities for the year.”

Even Democrats have attacked the scheme as a “massive new federal regulation,” and CFIF stands alongside a broad coalition of conservative and libertarian organizations in opposition.  The initiative from the overactive FCC seeks to impose a one-size-fits all mandate to make cable TV set-top boxes artificially compatible with third-party entertainment devices.  So even while cable companies themselves progressively and voluntarily move toward abandoning traditional cable boxes in favor of devices owned and maintained by individual customers as they prefer, Chairman Wheeler hopes to impose a 1990s-style regulation upon the industry.  That would essentially freeze in place the increasingly outdated model of set-top cable boxes that is already becoming an anachronism due to market forces.  Exacerbating matters, the proposal reeks of crony capitalism, as CFIF has highlighted.  The proposal is a confluence of regulatory overreach, technological sclerosis and crony capitalism.

Fortunately, this week’s decision within the FCC to delay a vote due to Wheeler’s apparent inability to persuade fellow Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to his side provides a rare victory against years of FCC regulatory onslaught.  Although the bipartisan consensus among consumer groups, Congress, the innovation community and market participants must remain vigilant because the battle isn’t over, it’s welcome news worthy of note and celebration.

May 25th, 2016 at 12:22 pm
Former Clinton Administration Official Rips FCC’s Set-Top Box Proposal as “Massive New Federal Regulation”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Alongside nearly every other conservative and libertarian organization of which we’re aware, CFIF opposes a toxic and wholly unnecessary new proposal from the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate cable television set-top boxes before the clock runs out on the Obama presidency.

But opposition extends across the political spectrum.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, former Clinton Administration Undersecretary of Commerce Ev Ehrlich excoriates the FCC’s proposed set-top box regulation for what it is — a crony capitalist, purloining, invasive, already-obsolete, anti-competitive, “massive new federal regulation”:

The Federal Communications Commission wants you, the consumer, to allow a new set-top box into your home that rearranges the programs you buy and inserts new advertising while tracking what you watch.  Movie studios, labor unions and civil rights groups all oppose it.  Why?  Because this ‘All-Vid’ proposal isn’t about the box fees the senators-turned-lobbyists decry.  Instead, it’s all about appropriating content.  Google and Amazon want to capture, repackage and profit from TV programming in their own competing services without having to pay for it…

If Google, Amazon or anyone else wants to build a better set-top box, they can do so the way these services have – in a way that respects federal privacy laws and negotiated licensing agreements with program producers.  Or they can actually license the content from creators, the way everybody else does, as opposed to demanding a gift from a captive FCC.”

Mr. Ehrlich gets it exactly right.

As we have stated, there is simply no realm of American life today that manifests badly-needed innovation, consumer choice, quality, affordability and sheer enjoyment than the video entertainment sector.  The variety and excellence of today’s video choices continues to expand at breakneck speed on (literally) a daily basis.  We therefore ask officials at all levels of government, as well as our 250,000 supporters and activists across the country, to oppose what Mr. Ehrlich rightly describes as a looming federal atrocity.

May 17th, 2016 at 11:04 am
Welcome to the Age of Asymmetrical Regulation
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

We are fortunate to live in what many have called the “Golden Age of Television,” a time when an explosion of creativity and innovation have collided to create more audience choice than ever before.

In light of that, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) recent decision to “Unlock the Box” with their “AllVid” proposal seems especially puzzling.  Upon further reflection and considering the bigger picture, however, the misguided AllVid proposal regarding technology that is already antiquated and will soon  be entirely irrelevant is merely the most recent in a string of illogical and counterproductive proposals from the current FCC.

From the so called AllVid proposal to the FCC’s Privacy proposal, it is evident that we live not only in the “Golden Age of Television,” but also in the “Age of Asymmetrical Regulation.” Current regulations impose one set of rules upon incumbents in the telecommunications industry and another set of rules entirely for so-called  “edge” providers like Google. In fact, regulation under this FCC seems to deliberately create a crony capitalist environment where incumbents can’t compete and the edge providers alone can thrive.

Equally troubling is the abnormally notoriously close relationship between Google and the White House, a partnership that was extensively detailed in a recent piece in The Intercept. Not only did Google’s top lobbyist visit the White House 128 times, but during the company’s annual State of the Union YouTube interviews with the President, Google is reported to have planted questions on policy issues important to Google on at least 3 occasions. That conspicuous degree of access and flagrant favoritism suggests that it has contributed to the severely asymmetrical regulation that we continue to witness from this FCC.

Again and again we have seen examples of this type of successful rent-seeking behavior from Google, and their ilk, and the remedy is clear: the FCC must stop its transparent favoritism and heavy-handed regulation of the telecommunication incumbents.  Instead, it should focus on maintaining a level playing field. Regulating based on crony capitalist bias and personal friendship is not only wildly inappropriate, but also a recipe for interventionist disaster. Continuing to disproportionately impose destructive regulations on the telecommunications for the benefit of other favored sectors not only violates the rights of disfavored enterprises, it ultimately serves to stifle competition and innovation for years to come in same the way that all government interventions into the free market tend to do.

April 27th, 2016 at 6:45 pm
TechNotes: Market Continues to Work Without FCC Meddling
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Throughout the Obama Era, his Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has destructively imposed regulation after regulation upon a tech and telecommunications market that was not broken.  Indeed, that sector has thrived like no other in the modern American economy.

An announcement today from Comcast provided just the latest evidence of that thriving market.

Specifically, Executive Vice President of Consumer Services Marcien Jenckes announced an Internet data trial that will introduce a terabyte data plan to its offerings.  Beginning June 1, data plans in trial markets will upgrade from 300 gigabytes to one terabyte, regardless of speed.

To place that in perspective, their average customer reportedly uses only 60 gigabytes per month – 940 gigabytes short of a terabyte.  A terabyte allows streaming of 700 hours of high-definition video, 12,000 hours of online gaming and 60,000 high-resolution photo downloads in a month.  Fewer than 1% of its customers even approach a terabyte in monthly usage, and even they will be free under the new plan to receive unlimited data for merely $50 more per month or individual increments of 50 gigabytes for $10.

In other words, the market is working without FCC “solutions” to non-existent problems.  This announcement offers merely the latest proof.

April 20th, 2016 at 4:01 pm
Xfinity Announcement Demonstrates Folly of FCC Set-Top Box Regulatory Proposal
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Alongside other free market organizations, CFIF adamantly opposes a new proposal by the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate cable television set-top boxes.

More specifically, Obama’s FCC seeks to impose a 1990s-vintage, one-size-fits-all mandate to make cable TV set-top boxes artificially compatible with third-party devices.  As we have detailed, the proposed regulation constitutes crony capitalism in its worst form, it poses a threat to consumer privacy, it undermines the creative community and jeopardizes intellectual property protections by potentially facilitating piracy.  In addition to those problems, it also constitutes an anachronism in the sense that it freezes in place an outdated set-top box  model that is already being left behind by technological advance and private sector innovation.  Cable companies and other entertainment industry players are already abandoning traditional cable boxes in favor of devices owned and maintained by individual consumers as they choose.

Today’s announcement of the new joint Xfinity TV Partner Program between Comcast, Samsung and Roku provides just the latest example illustrating that dynamic.  Stated simply, consumers can access their cable subscription via the Xfinity TV Partner app that will be compatible with RokuTV and Roku devices.  Thus, without the need for a set-top box at all, customers can now access live, on-demand, cloud, DVR and other televised content on smart TVs and other IP-enabled technology.

What this shows is that the video entertainment and app markets continue to evolve alongside consumer demand, rendering the FCC’s set-top box proposal obsolete before it can even be imposed.  The new regulation would disrupt market innovation of this sort while threatening the privacy and piracy perils noted above.  Simply put, the marketplace is working, and this latest FCC “solution” to a non-existent problem will only create more problems.

As we have emphasized, and as any American who watches television well knows, there is no realm of contemporary life that manifests innovation, consumer choice, quality, affordability and sheer enjoyment than the video entertainment sector.  The variety and excellence of today’s video choices continues to expand at breakneck speed and literally on a daily basis.

Today’s news serves to confirm that reality, and demonstrates why leaders in Congress, the innovation community, consumer groups and everyday American consumers should stand together and oppose this latest FCC overreach.

April 20th, 2016 at 11:10 am
Piracy, Data and AllVid: If Past is Prologue, Creators Should Worry a Google Delivered Pay-TV Service Would Promote Pirated Content
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

This is an amazing time for the film and TV industry, as audiences have never possessed more entertainment choices on more platforms.

To illustrate, FX Networks recently conducted a study demonstrating that the total number of scripted series (think dramas and comedies, not reality-TV) across cable, satellite and online increased to 409 in 2015. That represents a 94% increase from 2009, with a 174% growth in scripted series on basic cable (181 vs. 66). What’s more, all this great content is widely available online. SNL Kagan recently released a report finding that “98% of premium films and 94% of premium TV series were digitally available on at least one of the online services that were reviewed.”

Given this explosion of creativity and innovation, a sense of growing and justifiable bewilderment in the creative community exists over a recent FCC proposal, commonly referred to as “AllVid,” that would force creators, networks, and pay-TV providers to give away their products and services for tech giants like Google to exploit for their own commercial purposes. The beneficiaries of this government handout would be free to repackage video content as they see fit, drop programming or bury it on the channel guide, add their own advertising and strip out existing ads, and mine viewer data – all without negotiating with cable programmers or distributors or adhering to privacy laws and regulations that apply to traditional providers.

Further, there is nothing in the proposed rule to stop tech companies from combining legitimate content with video from piracy sources. “Walking Dead” producer Gale Ann Hurd articulated these concerns well in a recent USA Today op-ed stating:

[The proposal] would also allow Google — and for that matter set-top box manufacturers from all over the world, including China (where rogue boxes are being built by the millions) — to create and market applications or boxes with software that will treat legitimate and stolen material exactly the same, and may in many cases help to steer consumers to piracy.”

Her concern regarding piracy-laden devices is legitimate. As just one recent example, the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit arrested six people for selling Android set-top boxes modified to deliver illegal movies and TV shows. And Hurd’s concerns about boxes manufactured in China are made plain in this Forbes article.

Proponents of AllVid claim they merely want to show consumers “all their video,” meaning they want to mix and match content from YouTube and other online sources with pay-TV. Setting aside the fact that existing technologies like Roku and Apple TV already provide that capability, the creative community is understandably nervous about stolen content appearing alongside legitimate video if Google gets its way with the set top box proposal. As Hurd points out, “Google’s search engine does this today. Here’s what happens when I search “www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=watch+Fear+the+Walking+Dead">watch www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=watch+Fear+the+Walking+Dead">Fear the Walking Dead.

The role search plays in facilitating piracy is significant, so those concerns about the mixing of stolen online video with legal pay-TV content are well founded. According to one survey, 74% of consumers say they used a search engine when they first viewed pirated content. And researches at Carnegie Mellon University conducted an experiment conclusively demonstrating that search rankings drive consumer behavior. The more prominently pirated content appears in search results, the more likely consumers are to choose it.

Worse, TorrentFreak recently reported that Google Now is pushing links to piracy sites, even when consumers don’t engage in any search at all. As TorrentFreak explains:

Google can’t read people’s minds but it does harvest data from Google accounts in order to provide its Now services. That includes your search and location history, sites you’ve visited and the content of Gmail messages. It can also access your phone contacts, calendar entries and even certain apps.”

In this instance, after Google Now determined that user Ryan Raab had “shown an interest” in the movie “Deadpool,” it proactively delivered a link to one of the largest torrent sites in the world, 1337x (see the screenshot below).  The troubling nature of this behavior can’t be understated. Based on data collected across multiple services, Google’s algorithm unilaterally suggested Raab access stolen content – without any action on his part. The FCC’s proposal would only increase the likelihood that Google continues to engage in such irresponsible conduct.

Creators like Hurd have fought hard to keep the pay-TV environment piracy-free. But the FCC – in its eagerness to foment “innovation” – seems determined to compromise the integrity of the creative ecosystem that has produced an explosion of creativity and innovation. AllVid supporters see content merely as bait – a digital lure to attract their ultimate prize: data. If Google and the FCC succeed, creative content could be taken without negotiation or compensation and used by large tech companies to collect consumer viewing data – thereby undermining the economics of creation and consumer trust in one fell swoop.

Or as Hurd puts it, “I’m afraid that all of us who create, market and broadcast legitimate content will be like the zombies on my show: the walking dead.”

October 7th, 2015 at 8:40 am
FCC Shouldn’t Force Gov’t-Approved Design for Set-Top Cable and Satellite Boxes
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Last night, like many nights, our family experienced what more and more American families experience when it comes to video entertainment at home:  option overload.  Not that this is a bad thing, of course.  Who wants to return to the days of three major networks dictating the limited number of things we can watch?  Today we enjoy a wealth of options unimaginable even five years ago.

Despite our ever-increasing wealth of options, some continue to ignore reality and push for government-imposed regulations that will only interrupt continued innovation and future choice for consumers.

These parties are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revisit an embarrassing chapter in its regulatory past to force a government-approved design for the set-top boxes that allow cable and satellite TV customers to view programming.  The FCC’s previous regulation of these devices cost consumers tens of millions of dollars, and never created the market in alternative set-top boxes envisioned by regulators.  Specifically, some companies who would like to see the FCC engage in another attempt to “create” a market for their set-top products – products consumers stubbornly refuse to demand — are pushing for FCC regulations that would define the technologies cable and satellite companies use in manufacturing their set-top boxes.

The video marketplace has never had more choices in the number of devices and the number of platforms over which consumers can view video products.  There are gadgets and apps available for any number of devices to view any number of offerings, and yet there are those who would lock in the very set-top boxes that may be on their way out if the government would only leave the market to its own devices.

The FCC’s Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC, pronounced “DEE-stack”) issued a report in August which made no collective recommendation for any new FCC technology mandate on set-top boxes.  The panel reported what most younger video viewers have known for some time, namely, that there is “wide diversity” in networks, security, and communication technology choices across all pay TV platforms.

Although there is no doubt that interested parties will call for the government to regulate technology for set-top boxes, we urge the Commission to let consumers in the thriving market for video services sort out what devices and what technologies best serve their budgets, tastes, and viewing preferences.  To have the government lock in any present technology means cutting off future innovations.

We also need to respect the interests of content providers who have a right to negotiate the terms under which their content can be viewed.  And here again, apps can serve an important advancement for consumers and content providers, as the services provided by apps have exploded over the past few years as rights become available from content providers.

Simply put, consumers today are viewing video content using Amazon, Apple TV, Netflix, Roku, Cable and Satellite Apps, smartphones, tablets and web browsers.  The video market is thriving without government regulation and intervention.

Let’s hope the FCC can help video consumers by resisting the temptation to regulate in this exciting and rapidly changing world.

June 11th, 2012 at 1:59 pm
Coalition to FCC: Approve Verizon/SpectrumCo Deal Now

In a letter delivered on Friday, a coalition of 14 free market organizations, including the Center for Individual Freedom (”CFIF”), urged the Federal Communications Commission (”FCC”) to approve a private deal between Verizon and cable companies that will free currently unused spectrum to help alleviate the growing “spectrum crunch” that many wireless consumers – particularly those in densely populated areas of the country – are already feeling.

The letter, which was organized by ATR’s Digital Liberty, reads in part:

Demand for wireless broadband is more than doubling annually, but vast swaths of valuable spectrum – the lifeblood of mobile communications – remain unavailable to wireless carriers. Consumers in densely populated urban areas are already suffering from inadequate wireless capacity. While meeting this robust demand will require wireless carriers to adopt an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach, increasing spectrum availability is unquestionably the most fundamental and cost-effective means to meet wireless demand.

Unfortunately, spectrum auctions that will enable wireless carriers to bid on additional spectrum remain years away. Verizon Wireless’s proposed transfer presents a rare and crucial opportunity to deploy currently unused spectrum for wireless broadband. The spectrum at issue is ideally situated in the 1700/2100 MHz AWS bands, covering over 80 percent of the U.S. population (259 million POPs). Consumers will see substantial net benefits from expanded coverage enabled by additional spectrum, especially compared to more costly and time-consuming undertakings such as cell splitting.

With demand for wireless broadband more than doubling annually, the FCC’s own estimates predict that demand for wireless spectrum will exceed supply in 2013.  Yet Obama’s FCC has done little if anything at all to make additional and much-needed spectrum available to wireless network operators. 

In fact, under the Obama Administration the FCC has worked to delay and outright block private-sector deals to alleviate the growing spectrum crunch.  Last year, the FCC took unprecedented steps to block the then-pending AT&T-T-Mobile merger, going so far as to publicly release a biased draft staff report in opposition to the merger that the commissioners themselves never approved and quite  possibly didn’t even read.  Had that merger been approved, AT&T was promising to deploy high-speed mobile broadband to 95 percent of all Americans.  And the FCC has been over-scrutinizing and slow-walking approval of the Verizon-SpectrumCo deal since December.

Read the full coalition letter to the FCC here.

April 13th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
T-Mobile, Victim of Abusive FCC Last Year, Now Asks FCC to Cripple a Market Competitor
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Just months ago, T-Mobile became another unjustified casualty of the arbitrary and capricious Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  It was bad enough that the FCC curiously opposed T-Mobile’s proposed merger with AT&T, which would have upgraded wireless service for tens of millions of American consumers and created thousands of new jobs.  Compounding that injustice, however, the FCC committed the unprecedented transgression of releasing a confidential staff report that inaccurately maligned the proposed merger’s justifications.

Sadly, T-Mobile now seeks to employ that same FCC as a bureaucratic bludgeon to cripple a market competitor, by asking it to block a private spectrum purchase by Verizon Wireless.   Whereas T-Mobile announced a few months ago that, “The U.S. wireless industry will remain fiercely competitive”  by allowing acquisition of 50 MHz of T-Mobile’s spectrum as part of the AT&T deal, it now claims that Verizon’s proposed acquisition of 20 MHz of unused spectrum will somehow “unduly tip the scales” in Verizon’s favor.  Moreover, T-Mobile itself seeks to acquire 20 MHz of spectrum, which it claims is in the public interest and “seeks only to assign spectrum licenses and no other assets.”

CFIF supported T-Mobile’s right to enter into a bargained-for exchange between private parties during its proposed merger with AT&T, which the FCC and Obama Justice Department improperly blocked.  But by the same token, it should not turn around and attempt to interfere with other parties’ market transactions.  T-Mobile is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telecom, the world’s fourth-largest telecommunications company, which itself is partly owned by the German government.  So it’s not exactly David fighting Goliath, unable to contend in the marketplace without exploiting the FCC as some sort of protective big brother.

Verizon Wireless merely seeks to purchase unused spectrum, which will bring desperately-needed wireless service improvements for U.S. consumers.  That’s none of T-Mobile’s business, and the FCC is not some sort of instrument to be used as a competitive weapon.

January 26th, 2012 at 6:31 pm
Time to Rein In FCC’s Regulatory Overreach

For the past three years, those of us who eat, sleep and breathe the principles of limited government and free enterprise have been banging our heads against the wall because of the devastating and rampant overreach of executive departments and agencies in the Obama Administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)… the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)… the Department of Justice (DOJ)… Enough said.

But perhaps there has been no agency more guilty of abusing its power and imposing its regulatory overreach than the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  After all, it is the FCC that unilaterally – by a 3-2 party-line vote – imposed so-called “Net Neutrality” regulations against a bipartisan majority in Congress, a unanimous federal court of appeals and 2-1 public opinion.  It is the FCC that, despite acknowledging a national spectrum crisis as more and more consumers use smart phones and tablet computers, continually works to block any and all productive efforts to relieve said crisis.

So it was refreshing to read earlier today that AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson is calling out the FCC’s overreach, charging that the Commission is “intent on picking winners and losers rather than letting these markets work.” 

For too long the FCC has interfered with the free market, which has created an unlevel playing field that unfairly props up politically-favored companies less likely to invest their own capital in new job-creating and economy-enhancing infrastructure at the expense of others that will. 

And, that’s precisely why Congress must act, not only to refrain from granting the FCC’s request for additional flexibility on spectrum auction authority, but also to tighten the reins on the FCC in order to prevent it from further skewing the wireless market. 

Instead of permitting the FCC to, by definition, pick “winners and losers” in the wireless marketplace by unfairly limiting and excluding certain companies from participating in spectrum auctions, Congress must pass legislation that that will facilitate the proper and fair functioning of spectrum auctions that are open to all willing buyers. 

That the FCC thinks otherwise, coupled with its recent history of abusive regulatory overreach, should spark a long overdue and serious discussion about clearly defining its proper authority once and for all.

June 15th, 2011 at 4:59 pm
“Net Neutrality” At Six Months – FCC Still Hasn’t Published Order in Federal Registry
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Six months ago this coming Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its Chairman Julius Genachowski – Barack Obama’s old comrade and Harvard Law School classmate – hastily imposed the infamous and deceptively-named “Net Neutrality” regulations.  Just days before Christmas and fresh off the Administration’s effective takeover of the automobile, banking and healthcare sectors, Genachowski and his two fellow Democrat Commissioners rammed those regulations through against the wishes of (1) a solid majority of Americans, (2) a rare bipartisan Congressional majority and (3) a unanimous U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which declared the FCC’s “Net Neutrality” effort illegal mere months earlier.

The FCC’s maneuver move marked the first time in history that the federal government appointed itself authority to micromanage how Internet service providers operating in the ostensibly free market could and could not operate their own private networks.  Never mind, of course, the years and hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment required to build out and maintain those private networks – desperately-needed investment that continues to create rapid innovation and well-paying jobs.

The FCC’s illegal and unwise “Net Neutrality” regulations immediately jeopardized those billions of investment dollars, and will continue to do so should they somehow withstand judicial scrutiny.

Now, making things even worse, as the bare one-person Democratic majority moves full speed ahead with unnecessary and counterproductive Internet regulations on both wired and wireless Internet networks, Chairman Genachowski appears to be playing games by dragging his feet in order to obstruct the lawsuits and legislation to repeal the FCC’s unauthorized “Net Neutrality” rules.  Specifically, Chairman Genachowski appears to be delaying the publication of the FCC’s order in the Federal Registry to go forum-shopping and avoid the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit where the FCC lost last year and will likely lose again.

Thus, just like Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the FCC has become a rogue government agency willing to act beyond its statutory authority to commandeer both the wired and wireless Internet.  As our economy and employment market continue to struggle, now is the time for us to stop the Obama FCC’s rogue effort via the courts and Congress.

June 10th, 2011 at 4:12 pm
California Tries to Block AT&T, T-Mobile Deal

Those wacky California bureaucrats are at it again!  Reporting by the Wall Street Journal says that Golden State regulators “moved ahead Thursday with an investigation into AT&T Inc.’s $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA, raising a fresh hurdle for the U.S. wireless giant as it seeks the government’s blessing to acquire its third-largest competitor.”

The report goes on to explain that AT&T doesn’t need California’s blessing, only a green light from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  Nonetheless, California’s objection could “carry weight” with the FCC’s board of governors, potentially scuttling the merger.  Not bad for a group of regulators with zero jurisdiction over the matter.

With California staring at a multi-billion dollar deficit, perhaps this is the kind of government agency whose funding should be cut – or eliminated.

April 11th, 2011 at 2:29 pm
Quote of the Day from WSJ’s L. Gordon Crovitz
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Quote of the day from The Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz, writing in his weekly “Information Age” column:

In high-tech, by the time the political and legal systems catch up to an issue, the issue is moot.”

Whether anti-trust, so-called “Net Neutrality,” public broadband endeavors, wireless data roaming mandates or anything else, you can always count on bureaucrats to be a day late and a dollar short.  Are you paying attention, FCC?

April 7th, 2011 at 4:18 pm
The FCC’s Wireless Data Roaming Mandates Are Illegal, Unwise
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

One would think the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had learned its lesson by now.

In the past calendar year, the FCC’s extralegal power grabs have brought judicial rebuke from a unanimous Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, widespread public opposition and rare bipartisan Congressional condemnation.  But instead of internalizing those lessons, the FCC has once again endeavored beyond its legal authority by voting to impose data roaming mandates on private wireless carriers.  In a correspondence to the FCC, CFIF set forth the ways in which its latest rogue action is not only without legal foundation, but also unwise as a matter of public policy.

First, Section 332 of the Communications Act explicitly states that private mobile service providers “shall not be treated as a common carrier for any purpose under this Act.”  By  requiring wireless providers to forcibly enter agreements with other wireless carriers and allow non-customers to roam on their data networks, the FCC has violated that express provision. 

Second, a vibrant market for data roaming agreements already exists, meaning that this FCC action is unnecessary.  Carriers large and small already engage in very high rates of partnership, including Rural Cellular Association (RCA) members.  These agreements cover 3G and even 4G networks, contrary to extremists’ claims.  Indeed, numerous smaller carriers currently advertise nationwide broadband data coverage despite possessing relatively narrow license areas, meaning that they already have secured data roaming agreements.  Further, the prices negotiated in roaming agreements continue to decline. 

Third, the FCC’s bureaucratic intrusion into this realm will have the perverse effect of discouraging new investment and job creation in this cutting-edge sector.  After all, the FCC’s mandates will create incentives to piggyback on other networks rather than invest in new ones.  Carriers must be able to differentiate themselves and compete against counterpart carriers in the free market, which the FCC’s proposed mandates will undercut.  As data use continues to increase and smart phones impose new demands on network capacity, the inevitable result will be congestion, delay, fewer jobs and less investment.

Today’s FCC vote thus exceeds its legal authority and undermines new investment, while ignoring the fact that data roaming agreements are already prevalent.  It merely provides the latest evidence that the rogue FCC must be brought back to Earth, whether via Congress or the courts.

March 16th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
New Congress Deals Big-Government “Net Neutrality” Another Blow
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Yesterday, the new House of Representatives took another step to make good on its campaign promises last fall to the American people.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee, by a 30 to 23 vote, approved a resolution prohibiting Obama’s rogue Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from imposing so-called “Net Neutrality” on the nation’s Internet sector. This follows last week’s 15-8 vote by the Communications and Technology Subcommittee on the same issue. The FCC doesn’t possess the legal authority to regulate the Internet via “Net Neutrality” in the first instance, as a unanimous court of appeals ruled last year.  Further, Americans oppose this sort of Internet regulation by a solid two-to-one margin, and a rare bipartisan majority of 300 from Congress has formally instructed the FCC against pursuing this lawless course.  Ignoring all of that, the FCC rammed through “Net Neutrality” by a partisan 3-2 vote in December.

Big-government activists claim that “Net Neutrality” is somehow necessary to prevent Internet service providers, who invest the tens of billions of dollars necessary to create the networks on which the Internet passes, from blocking various websites or maliciously discriminating in Internet traffic.  But they cannot explain why that hypothetical epidemic of blockage has never occurred despite two decades of explosive Internet growth in our lives.  And with good reason – any service provider that did so would quickly find itself out of business due to irate customers.  But never mind that.  What are facts, after all, against the desire to add yet another sector of the American economy to the Obama Administration’s regulation?

Fortunately, Americans know better.  And just as fortunately, Congress and the courts are doing something about it.

March 9th, 2011 at 5:01 pm
House Subcommittee Votes 15-8 to Overturn FCC’s “Net Neutrality”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

As we predicted from the start, so-called “Net Neutrality” continues down its path toward inevitable defeat.

Today, the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee voted by a lopsided 15-8 margin to overturn the rogue effort by Obama’s FCC to add the Internet to the Administration’s laundry list of commandeered industries.  The American public opposes “Net Neutrality” Internet regulation by two-to-one margins, a court of appeals unanimously ruled it beyond the FCC’s proper authority and a bipartisan group of 300 members of Congress instructed the FCC to refrain from this abusive effort.  Despite those realities, the FCC arrogantly voted in December to impose “Net Neutrality,” just as the Obama Administration seeks to impose card check, carbon cap-and-tax and other unpopular schemes via unaccountable and unelected federal agencies.

Today’s resolution will now proceed to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a similar legislative effort to overturn “Net Neutrality” is underway in the Senate.  Meanwhile, a lawsuit proceeds in the same court that last year overturned “Net Neutrality,” meaning that the only question now is whether this ill-advised bureaucratic overreach will meet its end legislatively or judicially.  Either way, it can’t come soon enough for investors in our nation’s critical Internet sector.

February 17th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
House, Senate Introduce Resolution to Repeal “Net Neutrality”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Two months ago, when Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed its “Net Neutrality” proposal by a partisan 3-2 margin, we guaranteed that it would inevitably be defeated via legislation, the courts or both.

Sure enough, last month Verizon Communications challenged the FCC’s rogue vote in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the same court that unanimously ruled last April that the FCC doesn’t possess lawful authority to impose Net “Neutrality.”  Now this week, both the House and Senate introduced resolutions to repeal the FCC’s rogue action.  The resolutions were introduced pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to review and overrule federal agency regulations via simple majority.  Importantly, such resolutions are not subject to normal Senate filibuster hurdles.

“Net Neutrality” constitutes a destructive and illegal federal intrusion into the Internet, which has managed to flourish just fine over the past two decades without Obama Administration micromanagement, thank you very much.  The American public opposes it by a 2-to-1 margin, courts have rejected it unanimously and Congressional opposition is bipartisan.  While “Net Neutrality’s” demise is a matter of when, not if, it is still absolutely critical that we as citizens maintain our resolve to spare the Internet sector from becoming bureaucrats’ tech version of ObamaCare.

January 21st, 2011 at 10:46 am
Verizon Challenges Net “Neutrality” – Obama’s FCC Picked a Fight, and It Got One
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Last month, President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted by a partisan 3-2 margin to regulate Internet service via Net “Neutrality.”  On that date, we predicted,”The FCC’s reckless effort to regulate Internet traffic will now begin a slow death march to ultimate defeat from legal challenges and Congressional action.”

Exactly one month later, the judicial front in that battle is underway.

Yesterday, Verizon Communications challenged the FCC’s rogue vote in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  That’s the same court that unanimously ruled last April that the FCC doesn’t possess lawful authority to impose Net “Neutrality,” but the FCC defiantly pressed ahead despite that unequivocal ruling.  In so doing, the FCC also defied 2-to-1 public opposition and a bipartisan group of 300 from Congress.  Obama took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal this week to profess a new commitment to regulatory restraint in pursuit of a healthier economy, job creation and more humble federal government.  But his own FCC belies that supposed commitment with its Net “Neutrality” agenda.

Leaders of the new 112th Congress have also committed to overturning the FCC’s destructive attempt to regulate Internet service.  Whether the demise of Net “Neutrality” comes legislatively or judicially, it can’t come soon enough for American consumers, investors and employers.

January 5th, 2011 at 9:02 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Big Government’s Net Neutrality Foot in the Door
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Just prior to the Christmas holiday, the FCC on a 3-2 party line vote approved so-called “Net Neutrality” regulations on the Internet.  It did so in the face of overwhelming opposition by the American people, a bipartisan majority in Congress and in defiance of a ruling by the federal courts.  

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez on the issue.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

January 3rd, 2011 at 11:51 am
New Year’s Resolution for FCC from WSJ’s Crovitz: Focus on Competition, Not Regulations
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz just puts on a clinic on tech policy each Monday with his weekly “Information Age” column.  Today is no exception.  Entitled “Tech Resolutions for the New Year,” Crovitz directs his first resolution toward Chairman Julius Genachowski and the Obama Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that has again defied public opinion, a unanimous D.C. Court of Appeals and a bipartisan Congressional majority with last month’s “Net Neutrality” resolution:

For Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman:  Focus on competition, not regulations, lobbyists and lawyers.  By a partisan 3-2 vote, the Agency just before the holidays issued a plan to regulate the Internet.  The claim is ‘net neutrality,’ but throughout the 194-page order the reality is vague standards such as ‘reasonableness.’  This uncertainty creates a ‘regulator-may-I?’ approach to innovation and ensures years of litigation for a vital industry that evolved freely.  The real problem remains a lack of broadband competition, caused by government grants of monopolies and duopolies.  As open source guru Lawrence Lessig recently argued in Newsweek, the FCC should be replaced with regulators whose mission is ‘minimal intervention to maximize innovation.’”

Good advice.  Crovitz’s weekly commentaries are a must-read – especially if your name is Julius Genachowski.