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Posts Tagged ‘FCC’
May 13th, 2022 at 11:48 am
Quote of the Day: U.S. Leads the World in 5G Rollout, Thanks to Pro-Market Approach
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From economist Thomas Hazlett, in an insightful admonition against crony capitalist government intervention into the telecommunications market entitled “The U.S. May Repeat Mexico’s Wireless Spectrum Mistake” in today’s Wall Street Journal,  offers this little gem and tribute to the positive payoff of America’s comparatively pro-market deregulatory approach:

Meanwhile, 5G networks are spreading more rapidly in the U.S. than in any other nation, with 49% coverage in October 2021.  (China was at 20% that month.)  This rollout benefits from recent U.S. auctions for flexible-use spectrum rights, infusing networks with new capacity that lowers costs and spurs rivalry.  Further liberalization should continue.  Regulators haven’t been able to divert frequencies to selected business models to increase competition.  U.S. policy makers should avoid trying.”

 

April 18th, 2022 at 9:54 am
Image of the Day: “Light Touch” Regulatory Policies Have Kept Broadband Prices Low
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As Americans express growing alarm over consumer price inflation that commenced in January 2021 under the Biden Administration and Pelosi/Schumer Congress (see here), it’s worth highlighting how critical broadband access on which our economy increasingly depends has diverged from that trend.  It’s also worth highlighting that stems from the fact that internet service has so far escaped Biden Administration regulatory attempts to reverse free-market progress achieved under former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai:

February 2nd, 2022 at 4:20 pm
Opposition to Biden FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn Reaches Critical Mass
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For months, CFIF has articulated why the U.S. Senate must reject the Biden Administration’s nomination of hyperpartisan Gigi Sohn to sit on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), including our expression of support for Senator Roger Wicker’s (R – Mississippi) demand for rehearing based upon potential ethical concerns regarding Ms. Sohn after reviewing the substance of a $32 million litigation settlement between television broadcasters and the defunct Locast streaming service following her nomination.  Sohn sat on the board of Sports Fan Coalition, a nonprofit organization that operated Locast:

As Senator Wicker rightfully notes, the FCC oversees and regulates companies that were party to the $32 million settlement in question. Accordingly, the possibility of Ms. Sohn’s future financial liability to companies over which she would wield power if confirmed to the FCC merit immediate and full investigation. In addition, the timing of the settlement following her nomination by the Biden Administration offers additional reason for full public hearing to resolve any ethical questions.”

Now, The Wall Street Journal joins the accumulating chorus of opposition, bluntly asking, “Does an independent agency nominee who has deceived Senators about her business conflicts deserve to be confirmed?”

After the hearing Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker followed up with a written question:  ‘Where did the money come from for the payment of the $32 million settlement in connection with the Locast case?’  If a company donated the funds, she might have to recuse herself from matters involving the donor.  She responded that the ‘settlement funds come from amounts collected to fund [Sports Fan Coalition NY] after SFCNY pays its vendors.’  SFCNY is the name of the nonprofit that operated Locast.  This was an odd answer because SFCNY’s IRS 990 form showed only $794,159 in assets and funds at the end of 2020.  Where did the other $31 million come from?

Ms. Sohn declined the Senate’s request for a copy of the settlement, and now we know why.  Bloomberg Law reported this week that the settlement was signed Oct. 27 — one day after President Biden nominated her.  Locast only agreed to pay $700,000.  We’ve independently reviewed a copy of the settlement, which has Ms. Sohn’s signature.  In other words, on the day after she was nominated to her powerful regulatory position, broadcasters agreed to a settlement that cut the liability of her nonprofit by 98%. Interesting timing.

Why didn’t Ms. Sohn correct Mr. Wicker about the ‘$32 million settlement’?  Even if there was nothing improper about the settlement agreement, her lack of candor is a problem.  The settlement also creates the appearance of a conflict given her pending power over broadcasters, which she must pledge to avoid in an FCC ethics agreement.”

Beyond her ethical failures as articulated by Senator Wicker and The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Sohn’s nomination gravely threatens America’s thriving internet sector.   Specifically, she seeks to more heavily regulate that sector in the image of European internet service, which performed poorly throughout the Covid pandemic compared to the United States.  Despite nationwide quarantines and surges in internet use, U.S. broadband speeds actually increased by 91% in 2020.  Europe, in contrast, suffered service bottlenecks and overload, prompting regulators to ask content providers to throttle back.  Ms. Sohn would undermine the private U.S. broadband sector and remake it in that demonstrably inferior European image.  She has signaled support for rate regulation of broadband and is a staunch advocate of government-owned broadband, which would undermine private investment and network expansion, as well as the jobs that investment and expansion create.

Sohn also favors radical reimposition of Title II so-called “Net Neutrality” regulations, which would regulate private internet service as a “public utility” under 1930s statutes aimed at copper-wire telephones.  After the Obama FCC first imposed those regulations in 2015, the negative effects were immediate:  For the very first time ever outside of an economic recession, private internet investment actually declined.  When the Trump Administration FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai subsequently reversed the Obama FCC’s Title II regulation, private investment rebounded and internet service speeds immediately increased.

Our internet service sector mustn’t be subjected to the sort of disruptive overregulation that Sohn would bring if confirmed to the FCC.  She’s also notoriously weak on U.S. intellectual property rights, and advocates imposition of consumer privacy laws in a crony capitalist manner.  She’s simply too radical to be confirmed to the FCC at a time when Americans rely more than ever on a thriving internet service sector, and Senator Wicker is to be applauded for his leadership on this issue.

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December 22nd, 2021 at 9:30 am
AEI’s Bret Swanson: “The Federal Aviation Administration’s Embarrassing Attempt to Put 5G Wireless on ‘Airplane Mode’”
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In recent months CFIF has highlighted the destructive way in which the aviation industry and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue to unreasonably oppose deployment of super-fast 5G wireless in the U.S., placing us at an alarming technological and economic disadvantage globally.

Our friend Bret Swanson at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) just added his own expert perspective of the needless delay due to the FAA’s laughable suggestion that “planes might fall from the sky”:

Nearly 40 nations already have networks operating in the mobile C-band frequencies, and planes are doing just fine.  What’s more is that the US has an extra layer of protection in the form of a wider guard band — more than 200 MHz of empty space between the mobile radio and airplane frequencies.  This safety buffer is far more than most nations employ.  The US military also employs radar technologies close to the altimeter band that pump out radio waves at 10,000 times the power of the commercial mobile C-band radios.  Again, no problems.

The wireless and aviation industries — and their regulators — have discussed these technical matters for years, and the resolution enshrined in the FCC’s C-band auction rules was more than sensible.  The aviation industry has even been boasting about the possibilities 5G wireless will bring to flight operations.”

Swanson adds an interesting note on the potential cronyism and territorialism that may explain this stubborn opposition:

Many seasoned observers think the aviation industry is really looking for Washington (i.e., taxpayers) to buy them new altimeters to replace the old ones now operating in most of the fleet.  Delay 5G with scary ‘falling planes’ rhetoric, then back off when the new equipment is promised.”

He concludes by nicely summarizing what’s at stake here:

Delays aren’t free, however.  5G is now, with the internet, a fundamental platform for the entire economy.  Delays in the most important component of 5G — this huge addition of new spectrum and thus capacity and capability — would push back all kinds of economic activity in smartphones, transportation, smart infrastructure, advanced manufacturing and construction, and much more.  The FAA’s antics also threaten to upend well-functioning spectrum auctions and investment incentives…  The mobile internet has been the most powerful and successful facet of the US economy over the last decade.  Putting 5G on ‘airplane mode’ would be economically devastating.”

Well said, and hopefully the relevant authorities take heed of Swanson’s warning sooner rather than later…

 

December 10th, 2021 at 5:06 pm
Aviation Industry and FAA Continue to Needlessly Fight U.S. 5G Rollout
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We recently sounded the alarm on how the domestic aviation industry and overly-protective Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are unreasonably fighting deployment of super-fast 5G wireless service here in the U.S.:

The FAA’s immediate complaint centers on middle frequency C-Band spectrum, which is crucial to the full deployment of 5G in the U.S.   The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency with the actual expertise and experience necessary to decide spectrum issues such as this, has spent years studying the potential for 5G interference with aviation and has determined that establishing a 220 megahertz “guard band” around the portion of the C-Band aircraft use will more than protect them.  The FAA has nevertheless decided to intervene in an area outside of its expertise, and contests the FCC’s determination.”

We further emphasized how there’s zero experience or substantive evidence to suggest any interferrence threat they are claiming.  5G base stations are already in place in the U.S. and 40 other countries, with no incidents of interference.  Any threat would’ve become evident by now.

Nevertheless, wireless companies AT&T and Verizon offered compromises to resolve this needless standoff, limiting some of their 5G wireless services for 6 months to allow regulators to review the data that confirms no threat to aviation service.  The FCC itself called the carriers’ compromise “one of the most comprehensive efforts in the world to safeguard aviation technologies.”

But apparently even that’s not enough, as reported by Reuters:

The U.S. aviation industry said on Monday new precautionary measures offered by AT&T and Verizon Communications were insufficient to address air safety concerns raised by the planned use of C-Band spectrum for 5G wireless.  The Aerospace Industries Association said in a letter to Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel that the telecom plans ‘are inadequate and far too narrow to ensure the safety and economic vitality of the aviation industry.'”

Apparently, when it comes to 5G deployment, nothing will satisfy the FAA, which continues to be more concerned with protecting its bureaucratic turf by erecting dubious hurdles than allowing the launch of critical U.S. 5G networks. 

Every additional delay of this sort places us at a greater and greater disadvantage versus China, which presses forward without this sort of bureaucratic turf warfare.  American consumers, elected leaders and government officials mustn’t tolerate this.

December 1st, 2021 at 11:53 am
Former U.S. Attorney General Agrees: “Hyperpartisan Gigi Sohn Doesn’t Belong at the FCC”
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In our recent Liberty Update, CFIF sounded the alarm on Gigi Sohn, Joe Biden’s dangerously extremist nominee to the Federal Commission (FCC), noting that, “Ms. Sohn is simply too radical to be confirmed to the FCC at a time when Americans rely more than ever on a thriving internet service sector, and the Biden Administration has only itself to blame for its delay in nominating her.”

In today’s Wall Street Journal, former acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker brilliantly echoes the growing consensus that Ms. Sohn is simply too radical in a commentary entitled “Hyperpartisan Gigi Sohn Doesn’t Belong on the FCC”:

In addition to her hyperpartisan social-media presence, Ms. Sohn has dubbed Fox News ‘state-sponsored propaganda’ and has urged the FCC to look into whether Sinclair Broadcast Group is ‘qualified to be a broadcast licensee at all.’  Set aside that Ms. Sohn is wrong on the facts — Fox is privately owned, not state-owned, and Sinclair has long proved its ability to be a broadcaster.  What is breathtaking is her belief that the FCC’s powers ought to be used to crack down on conservative speech.   Were the tables turned — had then-President Trump nominated an FCC candidate who endorsed a close look at MSNBC — the Twitter verse would be horrified about the politicization of the FCC.”

It’s important to highlight that opposition to Ms. Sohn isn’t simple, reflexive partisanship, since the Biden Administration could’ve nominated any number of qualified people who don’t pose the same threat to America’s flourishing communications and internet sector:

Other possible Democratic FCC nominees haven’t insulted Republicans on Twitter, nor have they insinuated that the government should suppress right-leaning views.  In her no-holds-barred partisanship, Ms. Sohn is a uniquely dangerous and utterly unqualified FCC nominee.  Her nomination should concern the press, no matter their politics…  Republicans accommodated the Biden administration’s decision to make Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel the commission’s chair (she had been serving as acting chair).  Despite some disagreements with her policy positions from Republicans, Ms. Rosenworcel is seen as an honest broker.  Ms. Sohn is a different matter.  Ideologues aren’t a good fit in a job like this.”

As Mr. Whitaker wisely concludes, Senate Republicans and moderate Democrats must flatly reject Ms. Sohn’s nomination, forcing the Biden administration to nominate someone who doesn’t pose this clear and present threat to free speech and the U.S. communications sector.

 

November 9th, 2021 at 3:52 pm
WSJ Agrees: Senate Must Reject Extremist Biden FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn
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In a recent Liberty Update we sounded the alarm on Joe Biden’s hasty nomination of extremist Gigi Sohn to sit on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), highlighting how she’s simply too radical to be confirmed to the FCC at a time when Americans rely more than ever on a thriving internet service sector that her agenda would undermine.

Today, The Wall Street Journal echoed that alarm and explained the myriad ways in which she would threaten one of the few sectors that has continued to flourish throughout the Covid pandemic:

 

She was a counselor to Obama FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and was a driving force behind the ‘net neutrality’ regulation that classified broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934…  The enormous regulatory uncertainty caused broadband investment to decline, though it picked up after the Trump FCC scrapped the rule.  Ms. Sohn supports making the Wheeler rule even more burdensome…

The FCC is currently split 2-2, and if Ms. Sohn is confirmed, Democrats will move quickly on the progressive agenda.  Mr. Biden has also renominated Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to another term as agency Chair.  A source says Biden Administration officials wanted to name Ms. Sohn as Chair but worried that moderate Democratic Senators would then reject her nomination.

Ms. Sohn’s strident partisanship should disqualify her from serving as an officer of an independent agency with so much power to control the public airwaves.  There’s also a risk that the President could designate her as Chair after she’s confirmed, as he did with the radical Lina Khan on the Federal Trade Commission.”

 

Ms. Sohn is simply too radical to be confirmed to the FCC at a time when Americans rely more than ever on a thriving internet service sector.  The Biden Administration has only itself to blame for its delay in nominating Ms. Sohn, and The Wall Street Journal confirms the growing consensus that the U.S. Senate should reject her nomination and spare us the enormous risk she presents.

June 10th, 2020 at 9:41 am
Image of the Day: Obama “Net Neutrality” Regulation Cut Private Investment, Reversal Under FCC Chairman Pai Restored It
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As we’ve often noted, the Obama Administration’s zealous effort via its Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate internet service as a “public utility” under the false label “Net Neutrality” was among its most egregious policy offenses.  Conversely, President Trump’s appointment of Ajit Pai as FCC Chairman and the ensuing effort to repeal the Obama Administration’s regulation, thereby returning federal “light touch” regulatory policy that prevailed from 1996 – 2015 when the internet flourished like no innovation in human history, was among his administration’s wisest policy successes.

Specifically, we’ve highlighted how, following the Obama Administration’s “Net Neutrality” regulation effort, private broadband investment actually fell for the first time outside of a recession, but also how investment surged when Chairman Pai commenced reversal that foolish move, which this image captures nicely:

“Net Neutrality” Regulation Harmed Investment, Reversal Boosted It

“Net Neutrality” may be a fashionable crusade among latenight comedians and far-left activists, but Americans shouldn’t be fooled.  Light regulation, not heavy-handed federal regulatory strangulation, benefits us all.

May 11th, 2020 at 10:36 am
Image of the Day: Majority Says Internet Better Left to Private Providers, Not Federal Bureaucrats
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CFIF continues to highlight how Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s “light touch” regulatory approach benefits Americans immensely in terms of internet service, particularly amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.  The left-leaning Pew Research Center offers an encouraging new survey in that regard, highlighting how large majorities agree that while internet service remains essential, it’s something better left to private internet providers than the federal government:

 

Majority Disfavors Federal Internet Control

Public Disfavors Federal Internet Control

 

May 1st, 2020 at 11:04 am
“Net Neutrality”: Former Clinton Official Defends FCC Chairman Pai’s Free-Market Approach to Internet
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We recently highlighted how the Trump Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai did Americans a favor in repealing the 2015 Obama FCC “Net Neutrality” regulation that treated internet service as a public utility.  That Obama FCC effort needlessly reversed the “light-touch” regulatory approach that prevailed from 1996 through 2015, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, and which had allowed the internet to become the most quickly transformative innovation in human history.  In contrast, after the Obama FCC “Net Neutrality” order, private broadband investment fell for the first time ever outside of a recession.

And now, amid the sudden coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, Americans can be grateful for Chairman Pai’s leadership on that issue because the U.S. has more smoothly accommodated the suddenly higher internet burdens than our European counterparts, who more broadly adhere to the heavy-regulatory Obama FCC “Net Neutrality” approach.  In that vein, former Clinton Administration Undersecretary of Commerce Ev Ehrlich emphasizes precisely that point in today’s Wall Street Journal:

I was Undersecretary of Commerce during the Clinton Administration when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 passed.  That law produced some of the best and most affordable broadband in the world.  Our networks are performing much better than those in Europe, Australia and India because we created a deregulatory regime to allow different technologies – cable, fiber, mobile – to compete against one another.  As a result, 95% of Americans today have high-speed broadband available and 80% have access to gigabit speeds.”

Bipartisan consensus is rare in today’s charged political culture, but it’s nice to see a former Clinton Administration official confirm the point – a “light-touch” regulatory approach to internet service has benefited America vis-a-vis the suffocating regulatory approach favored by leftist partisan activists, Europe and the Obama Administration.  For that we should also thank the current FCC under Chairman Pai.

 

August 2nd, 2019 at 1:33 pm
Texas A.G. Paxton Irrationally Joins Leftist A.G. Colleagues in Multistate Lawsuit Opposing T-Mobile/Sprint Merger
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Inexplicably, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has elected to join leftist state attorneys general in their multistate lawsuit opposing a T-Mobile/Sprint merger that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has approved, and a majority of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners support.

That lawsuit took the unprecedented step of challenging the proposed merger before the federal agencies had even completed their review process, demonstrating that their opposition had less to do with the facts and market realities of the case than political grandstanding.  Clearly, their state-level lawsuit centers not on the merits of the merger, especially in light of the DOJ’s announcement this week, which would introduce even greater network capacity and competition to the telecom marketplace.

By indefensibly choosing to join that lawsuit, Paxton now seeks to halt an extraordinary opportunity to accelerate innovation and 5G deployment in the U.S., bridge the digital divide in rural and urban communities and boost high-paying American jobs.

We at CFIF have long supported the proposed merger for all of these reasons and more, and we hope that Paxton and anyone else considering such a needlessly unwise position reconsider.

July 15th, 2019 at 12:46 pm
CFIF Applauds the FCC for Acting to Stop the Local Internet Power Grab

More than thirty years ago, Congress gave local governments the power to impose “franchise fees” and other regulations on cable television service. It was part of a broad framework for shared national and local authority over cable television in the 1984 “Cable Act,” which laid the foundation for the cable (and eventually satellite) TV boom of the 1980s and beyond.

By contrast, local governments have very limited power to tax or regulate the internet. Unlike television, which has a long tradition of serving independent local markets with discrete programming, options and infrastructure, from the beginning it’s been clear that the internet is inherently national and interstate and can only be effectively regulated at the federal level. That has been core federal policy for decades, as most recently expressed in the 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which concluded that, “regulation of broadband Internet access service should be governed principally by a uniform set of federal regulations, rather than by a patchwork that includes separate state and local requirements.”

Recently, however, a number of local franchising authorities have tried to upend that federal policy and claim the right to impose local taxes and regulations on the internet by seizing on the fact that some broadband providers also offer cable television services. Now, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is rightly working to put a stop to this local government internet power grab – moving to make clear that the Cable Act only allows local franchising boards to tax and regulate cable companies based on their cable television operations.

If every local franchising board in the country can impose its own rules and fees on internet providers, the freewheeling and open internet we all enjoy today will slowly grind to a halt. The resulting cacophony of regulation will overwhelm operators, slowing down cyberspace and making it less reliable and less secure. It will drive away new investment needed to continue to achieve ever-increasing speeds users have come to take for granted. And it will confuse consumers who expect the internet to be a consistent experience everywhere they go.

This is the exact harm federal policy strives to avoid. As the FCC explained, “allowing state or local regulation of broadband internet access service could impair the provision of such service by requiring each ISP to comply with a patchwork of separate and potentially conflicting requirements across all of the different jurisdictions in which it operates.”

For that reason, CFIF encourages the FCC to vote to shut down the local power grab by making clear that neither the Cable Act nor any other source of local regulatory power authorizes franchise boards to tax or regulate the internet or any other non-cable-television businesses.

The future of the internet and our unfettered access depend on it.

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May 21st, 2019 at 11:29 am
WSJ Applauds FCC Chairman Pai, Commissioner Carr in Support of T-Mobile/Sprint Merger
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Echoing CFIF, today’s Wall Street Journal board editorial applauds Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s and Commissioner Brendan Carr’s expressions of support for the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger:

By joining forces, T-Mobile and Sprint will be better positioned to compete against wireless leaders Verizon and AT&T in the 5G era.   Sprint is sitting on loads of mid-band spectrum that boosts wireless speeds while T-Mobile boasts ample low-band spectrum that provides coverage.  The combination is likely to provide a faster, denser network.”

As they rightly conclude, “government penalties pale next to the powerful market incentives that already exist for Sprint and T-Mobile to rapidly build out their networks lest they lose market share to Verizon, AT&T, cable companies and even satellite startups being launched by Amazon and SpaceX.”  Well put.

April 22nd, 2019 at 1:09 pm
WSJ Urges Regulators to Approve T-Mobile/Sprint Merger
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We at CFIF have steadfastly highlighted the consumer benefits of the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger, and cautioned the federal government against any pointless and destructive objection to the deal.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, its editorial board encourages the Department of Justice (DOJ) to move forward on the deal:

The Justice Department lost its lawsuit to block AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner.  Yet now the antitrust cops are holding up T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint even though it could give AT&T more competition in wireless.  What gives?

A year ago, T-Mobile announced plans to acquire Sprint for $26 billion in stock, yet the merger is still stuck in government antitrust purgatory.  The Federal Communications Commission keeps pausing its 180-day shot clock on the merger review to let staff and third parties dig through documents to trash the deal.”

The piece goes on to neatly summarize the benefits the merger would bring:

With more than 100 million customers, the new T-Mobile would be a stronger competitor to Verizon Wireless (118 million) and AT&T (94 million).  It would also offer a broader mix of spectrum that would improve service.  T-Mobile boasts low-band spectrum that increases coverage in rural areas.  Sprint is sitting on mid-band spectrum that can transmit more data at higher speeds in urban areas.”

Simply put, it’s time for regulators to approve the merger to release the fruits that it promises.

April 12th, 2019 at 1:39 pm
House Democrats Revive Obama FCC’s Ruinous Effort to Regulate Internet
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What’s old is somehow new again on the political left.

Desperate for what they perceive as street cred, leftists continue to repackage failed policies as somehow novel, in a destructive race to claim the most extreme realms of the political continuum.

Merely three decades after it was consigned to the dustbin of failed ideas, socialism actually maintains renewed popularity on the left.  According to Gallup, a majority of Democrats no longer view capitalism favorably, but almost 60% view socialism positively.

People like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D – New York) advocate a return to income tax rates not seen since President John F. Kennedy began cutting them.  Thirty-five years after Jeane Kirkpatrick delivered her famous 1984 Republican convention speech castigating those who “blame America first,” people like Representative Ilhan Omar (D – Minnesota) tweet, “We must confront that our nation was founded by genocide and we maintain global power through neocolonialism.”

Not to be outdone, Democrats in the House of Representatives have joined the fray by attempting to resuscitate one of the Obama Administration’s most foolish and demonstrably destructive agenda items – to begin regulating the internet as a public utility.

Think of it as socialism for the internet.  What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out.

From 1996 through 2015, the internet flourished like no other innovation in human history, precisely because the federal government from the Clinton Administration forward employed a “light-touch” regulatory approach.  Just ask yourself what was “broken” about the internet that somehow cried out for a federal bureaucratic “fix” during that two-decade stretch of unprecedented innovation and transformation of our lives.

But like so many other realms of American economic and civic life, the Obama Administration decided in 2015 that the internet merited its trademark brand of hyper-regulation.  Specifically, its Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suddenly decided to regulate internet service as a “public utility” under statutes enacted in the 1930s for copper-wire telephone service.  In Orwellian fashion, the Obama Administration and its apologists throughout the media and entertainment industries labeled it “Net Neutrality,” when by definition federal commandeering of an entire industry and picking winners and losers via the business model it imposes is anything but “neutral.”

So how did the Obama FCC’s scheme work out?

Disastrously.  For the first time in history outside of a recession, private investment in network infrastructure by service providers actually declined.   By way of comparison, investment in wireless alone had increased almost 33% – from $25 billion to $33 billion – between 2010 and 2013, even amid the most sluggish cyclical economic “recovery” in history under the Obama Administration.  But in the first year alone following the Obama FCC’s bright idea to regulate the internet, investment declined by an astonishing $5.6 billion.

In other words, investment declined in just one year by almost the entire amount that wireless investment had increased from 2010 to 2013.

When the Trump Administration arrived, one of its first priorities under new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was to reverse that destructive Obama Administration boondoggle.

Latenight comedians and leftists in media and politics attempted to convince Americans that the sky was falling, and that this would “break the internet.”  But as noted above, it was the Obama Administration’s 2015 effort that was breaking the internet, while the Trump FCC under Ajit Pai was merely restoring the light-touch regulatory approach that had allowed the internet to evolve and flourish from 1996 to 2015.

The results have been immediate and positive, as highlighted by a Recode piece entitled “U.S. Internet Speeds Rose Nearly 40 Percent This Year”:

The internet is getting faster, especially fixed broadband internet.  Broadband download speeds in the U.S. rose 35.8 percent and upload speeds are up 22 percent from last year, according to internet speed-test company Ookla in its latest U.S. broadband report.  The growth in speed is important as the internet undergirds more of our daily lives and the wider economy.  As internet service providers continue building out fiber networks around the country, expect speeds to increase…” 

 

But now, House Democrats have introduced legislation to return to the Obama Administration’s destructive internet regulation regime.  Perhaps airheaded latenight comedians like Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver find that prospect soothing, but nobody else should.

“The United States has turned the page on the failed broadband policies of the Obama Administration,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr announced this week.  “By getting government out of the way,” he added, “internet speeds are up 40%, the digital divide is closing across rural America, and the U.S. now has the world’s largest deployment of next-generation 5G networks.”  Carr continued, “There’s a lot of common ground on net neutrality, but this bill studiously avoids it.  It elevates the partisan politics of Title II over widely supported rules of the road, and would turn back the clock on the progress America is making,” he concluded.

Wise words.   We all want net neutrality, but heavy-handed federal regulation of internet service is precisely the opposite.   We’ve already witnessed the unwelcome consequences of that scheme, as well as the beneficial consequences of reversing it under the new FCC leadership.  House Democrats’ legislation must be swiftly rejected accordingly.

 

 

September 24th, 2018 at 9:40 am
The FCC Must Move to Stop the Local Internet Power Grab

More than thirty years ago, Congress gave local governments the power to impose “franchise fees” and other regulations on cable television service.  It was part of a broad framework for shared national and local authority over cable television in the 1984 “Cable Act,” which laid the foundation for the cable (and eventually satellite) TV boom of the 1980s and beyond.

By contrast, local governments have very limited power to tax or regulate the internet.  Unlike television, which has a long tradition of serving independent local markets with discrete programming, options, and infrastructure, from the beginning it’s been clear that the internet is inherently national and interstate and can only be effectively regulated at the federal level.  That has been core federal policy for decades, as most recently expressed in the 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which concluded that, “regulation of broadband Internet access service should be governed principally by a uniform set of federal regulations, rather than by a patchwork that includes separate state and local requirements.”

But recently, a number of local franchising authorities have tried to upend that federal policy and claim the right to impose local taxes and regulations on the internet by seizing on the fact that some broadband providers also offer cable television services.  Now, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is rightly working to put a stop to this local government internet power grab – moving to make clear that the Cable Act only allows local franchising boards to tax and regulate cable companies based on their cable television operations.

If every local franchising board in the country can impose its own rules and fees on internet providers, the freewheeling and open internet we all enjoy today will slowly grind to a halt.  The resulting cacophony of regulation will overwhelm operators, slowing down cyberspace and making it less reliable and less secure.  It will drive away new investment needed to continue to achieve ever-increasing speeds users have come to take for granted.  And it will confuse consumers who expect the internet to be a consistent experience everywhere they go.

This is the exact harm federal policy strives to avoid.  As the FCC explained, “allowing state or local regulation of broadband internet access service could impair the provision of such service by requiring each ISP to comply with a patchwork of separate and potentially conflicting requirements across all of the different jurisdictions in which it operates.”

For that reason, the FCC’s “Section 621 Proceeding” must move quickly to shut down the local power grab by making clear that neither the Cable Act nor any other source of local regulatory power authorizes franchise boards to tax or regulate the internet or any other non-cable-television businesses.

The future of the internet and our unfettered access depend on it.

May 18th, 2018 at 12:06 pm
Image of the Day: What Obama FCC Internet Regulation Did to U.S. Broadband Investment
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Inexplicably, the U.S. Senate this week narrowly moved to restore 2015 Obama Administration Federal Communications Commission (FCC) crony capitalist internet regulations.  Here’s the effect that Obama FCC regulation immediately had on mobile broadband investment.  It’s now the duty of the House of Representatives and the Trump Administration to kill this mindless Obama-era attempt to regulate the internet, and we encourage everyone to contact their Representatives and the White House to demand that action.

Neutering the Net

Neutering the Net

May 17th, 2018 at 9:32 am
CFIF Applauds Senator Mike Lee’s Introduction of the SMARTER Act of 2018
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ALEXANDRIA, VA – This week, Senator Mike Lee (R – Utah) introduced the Standard Merger and Acquisition Reviews Through Equal Rules (SMARTER) Act in the United States Senate.  Among other advancements, the SMARTER Act will address concerns that parties to a proposed merger or acquisition endure different injunction standards in court challenges, as well as different processes, depending upon which federal antitrust agency happens to be reviewing the transaction.

In response, Center for Individual Freedom (“CFIF”) Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs Timothy Lee issued the following statement:

The Center for Individual Freedom applauds Senator Mike Lee on the introduction of the SMARTER Act of 2018.  Among other improvements, this bill includes key reforms to the flawed Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) merger review process, including:  1) establishing a reasonable time limit for agency review to ensure fairer, more transparent and timely decisions, and 2) ending the ability to effectively kill transactions by designating them for hearing before Administrative Law Judges, instead requiring such cases to be litigated in federal court just as the Justice Department must when contesting proposed transactions.

CFIF urges quick Senate passage of the commonsense legislation.
March 16th, 2018 at 12:32 pm
Congress Must Prevent Crony Capitalism and Spending Waste in FCC Reauthorization
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As Congress considers reauthorization of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it must exercise extreme diligence to prevent it from becoming a vehicle for crony capitalism and waste of taxpayer dollars.

Currently, Congressional FCC reauthorization includes provisions that would reimburse broadcasters in spectrum incentive auctions, which could in turn be exploited to subsidize the upcoming ATSC 3.0 transition, as many had predicted.  By way of background, ATSC 3.0 refers to the upcoming transition to yet another new broadcasting standard, which will force over-the-air viewers to purchase new television sets or converter equipment at their own expense.  If that rings a bell, it’s for good reason.  That’s what occurred in recent years with the last conversion.

Here’s the problem.  Current provisions could constitute a blank check at taxpayer expense to broadcasters so that they could fund new equipment for the transition from the U.S. Treasury, as the legislation creates a new Treasury Fund in an undisclosed amount of money.  Although broadcasters ostensibly must direct the money they receive only toward costs associated with the spectrum auction, the likely scenario remains that the FCC will remain unable to detect and stop waste, fraud and abuse if the funds are used instead to upgrade their equipment in pursuit of ATSC 3.0.

Accordingly, it’s important that Congress not allow this legislation to become a wasteful open account for broadcasters to exploit for their own benefit at taxpayer expense.  At a minimum, they must establish greater safeguards to ensure that waste, fraud and abuse are not allowed, and that American consumers are not deprived of access to over-the-air TV access as a consequence of necessary installation of ATSC 3.0 transition equipment funded by taxpayers, whether in whole or in part.

To be clear, we welcome any and all technological and telecommunications advancement in this field, but we must also remain vigilant against the looming likelihood of crony capitalism and waste of taxpayer dollars in an era of growing deficits and debt.  Congress must therefore ensure that protections against those possibilities are incorporated into upcoming FCC reauthorization.

December 5th, 2017 at 12:26 pm
Image of the Day: Leftist Net Neutrality Illogic
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This actually captures the illogic among those who advocate tighter federal government control over the internet fairly well:

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Net Neut Illogic

Net Neut Illogic

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