As the Federal Communications Commission nears a fateful decision on network neutrality, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Y2K all over again.
You may remember Dec. 31, 1999. That’s the last time the Internet was expected to die, because millions of computers were going to crash when their internal clocks failed to turn over to the year 2000. I sat in the Globe’s newsroom, waiting for the end. Nothing happened. It was quite a letdown.
Now here comes another “apocalypse.” On Dec 14, the FCC is expected to abandon the Obama administration’s policy on so-called Net neutrality, in which the government forces Internet providers to treat all data equally. Activists say it’s the end of the Internet as we know it, with giant Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T free to block or slow down access to key online services unless they’re paid extra to let the data flow.
But I’m betting hardly anything will change. Not the day after Dec. 14, the month after, or the year after.
I’m as subject to panic as the next guy, but I can’t see much reason to freak out over the supposed death of Net neutrality.
I’m on board with the principle that Internet carriers should not be allowed to block certain Internet services or deliberately slow them down to make them less accessible. Many activists go further and reject “paid prioritization,” or giving superior “fast lane” service to consumers willing to pay extra.
Serious breaches of Net neutrality are pretty hard to find. An activist group called Free Press published a “greatest hits” list of alleged violations. They found 12. Oops . . . make that 10. In two decades of widespread Internet use in America, they couldn’t find even a dozen significant violations, so Free Press padded the list with two cases from outside the United States. Even the remaining 10 are questionable cases that may have been driven by network security or traffic management disputes, rather than by efforts to stamp out rivals.
Still, the Net neutrality lobby, which includes massive users of Internet services such as Google and Netflix, wanted tougher regulatory protection. They got it in 2015, when the FCC decided to regulate the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
Some called it a life preserver for Internet freedom; I call it regulatory overkill on a massive scale. Even the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a staunch supporter of the Title II approach, warned in 2015 that a portion of the plan “sounds like a recipe for overreach and confusion.” Read the rest of this entry »
‘What Do They Want, a Cookie?’ CNN Didn’t DECIDE to Retract the Fake Russia Story, They Were FORCED ToPosted: June 28, 2017
CNN faced $100M lawsuit over botched Russia story
Emily Smith reports: The specter of a $100 million libel suit scared CNN into retracting a poorly reported story that slimed an ally of President Trump’s — and forcing out the staffers responsible for it, The Post has learned.
The cable network’s coverage of Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci came amid federal scrutiny of corporate parent Time Warner’s pending purchase by AT&T — and the widespread belief among media execs that CNN President Jeff Zucker can’t survive a merger.
CNN immediately caved after Scaramucci, a financier and frequent network guest, cried foul and threatened to take legal action, sources said Tuesday.
— Mark Krikorian (@MarkSKrikorian) June 28, 2017
Scaramucci got an unusual public apology but still hired a top Manhattan lawyer to put further pressure on CNN and “look after [his] interests in this matter,” one source said.
“They called them in and said they’d pay out their contracts, but they should leave immediately,” one source said.
Zucker was afraid of facing a high-profile suit from Scaramucci while the US Justice Department weighs the proposed $85.4 billion media merger.
Meanwhile, a CNN insider said staffers are furious at “having lost the moral high ground because of this story.” Sources said Zucker tried to rally his staff during a Tuesday morning conference call.
“Zucker stressed that this issue was a ‘lapse in editorial standards’ and said it was a lesson to all reporters and editors to continue to strive for strong, accurate reporting,” a source said. Read the rest of this entry »
Advocates for ‘free and open Internet’ picket outside FCC.
Alt-left advocates for net neutrality, who say they want a “free and open internet,” want to ban the Drudge Report.
Elizabeth Harrington reports: Alt-left advocates for net neutrality, who say they want a “free and open internet,” want to ban the Drudge Report.
Members of the alt-left who have been tied to violent protests in the past picketed outside the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday in protest of Chairman Ajit Pai‘s proposal to reverse net neutrality rules. The FCC will vote to undue the Obama era Title II rule that classified Internet service providers as utilities, subjecting them to more federal regulation.
Protesters covering their faces held signs that read “Ban Drudge,” with a no symbol over the Drudge Report, the highly trafficked news website run by Matt Drudge. Other protesters held signs to ban other news websites, including Breitbart and InfoWars. Read the rest of this entry »
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans today to roll back net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration in 2015.
The FCC currently regulates Internet service providers (ISPs) under Title II regulations that essentially treat the internet as a public utility similar to the old phone monopoly. Proponents of net neutrality and the invocation of Title II regulations say that such oversight is necessary to ensure that the Internet remains “open” and ISPs don’t block sites or degrade offerings by rivals. Long a critic of Title II regulations, which were invoked after the FCC lost two court battles to regulate the Internet, Pai describes them as “a panoply of heavy-handed economic regulations that were developed in the Great Depression to handle Ma Bell.”
Scrapping these rules, Pai told Reason’s Nick Gillespie, won’t harm consumers or the public interest because there was no reason for them in the first place. The rationales were mere “phantoms that were conjured up by people who wanted the FCC for political reasons to overregulate the internet,” Pai told Gillespie. “We were not living in a digital dystopia in the years leading up to 2015.”
If left in place, however, the Title II rules could harm the commercial internet, which Pai described as “one of the most incredible free market innovations in history.”
“Companies like Google and Facebook and Netflix became household names precisely because we didn’t have the government micromanaging how the internet would operate,” said Pai, who noted that the Clinton-era decision not to regulate the Internet like a phone utility or a broadcast network was one of the most important factors in the rise of our new economy. Read the rest of this entry »
A telecommunications lawyer who has served on the FCC since May 2012, Pai is a free-market advocate who has been critical of new regulations adopted by Democrats in recent years.
“I look forward to working with the new administration, my colleagues at the commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”
Pai, 44, would take over for Tom Wheeler, a Democrat who stepped down on Friday. Wheeler’s term had not expired but Trump gets to designate a new chairman as Republicans gain the FCC majority.
“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation.”
“I look forward to working with the new administration, my colleagues at the commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans” Pai said.
A telecommunications lawyer who has served on the FCC since May 2012, Pai is a free-market advocate who has been sharply critical of new regulations adopted by Democrats in recent years.
He takes the chairman’s office amid reports that Trump’s advisors want to scale back the FCC’s authority.
“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation,” Pai said in a speech last month looking ahead to Republican control of the FCC.
Pai, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from India, was associate general counsel of Verizon Communications Inc. from 2001-03 before working as a staffer at the U.S. Senate, the Justice Department and the FCC.
He sprinkles his speeches with pop-culture references and is adept at social media. During the net neutrality debate, he tweeted a photo of himself with the 332-page proposal and lamented that FCC rules didn’t allow him to make it public. Pai has pushed for FCC proposals to be released before commissioners vote on them.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a Georgetown University law professor and longtime consumer advocate, said Pai would be a “formidable opponent” for public interest groups. Read the rest of this entry »
During NBC’s special live coverage of Donald Trump’s press conference on Wednesday, reporter Cynthia McFadden revealed that U.S. intelligence officials deemed rumors of a Russian dossier of damaging information about the President-elect to not be credible.
She explained to NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt: “…as far as they are concerned, and I’m going to quote now, ‘Intel and law enforcement officials agree that none of the investigations have found any conclusive or direct link between Donald Trump and the Russian government, period.’”
McFadden further informed viewers: “They wanted it available, we are told, so that if they felt they needed to explain to the President-elect the difference between vetted intelligence…and this raw kind of disinformation that’s out there.” Read the rest of this entry »
BREAKING: MERGER DEAD: Comcast + Time Warner Cable Mega-Merger Doomed After FCC Issues Dreaded ‘Death Sentence’Posted: April 23, 2015
Internet users ‘can breathe sigh of relief’ as FCC calls for lengthy hearing, reportedly scuttling proposed mega-deal between top two US cable companies
The controversial merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable appears to be dead after the top regulator in the United States recommended handing over the deal to a lengthy hearing by an administrative law judge.
“The reason this is essentially a ‘death sentence’ is that it’s a multi-year process.”
The blockbuster combination of the two top cable companies in the US was already threatened by a widely reported decision from the Department of Justice to block the merger on antitrust grounds.
Citing “people with knowledge of the matter”, the business news service said Comcast could decide whether to walk away from its proposed Time Warner Cable takeover as soon as Thursday, with an announcement on Friday.
“Designating the deal for a hearing would make Comcast and Time Warner Cable go through a lengthy evidentiary procedure. That’s a very high hurdle to clear in its own right, and a huge barrier to overcome for a disastrous deal like this one, which has no real public interest benefits to show.”
A spokeswoman for Comcast said the company had no comment on the report of the merger’s dissolution.
The two telecommunications giants proposed to create a single operator that would have controlled up to two-thirds of US internet connections and provided cable television to more that a quarter of the American market.
“The reason this is essentially a ‘death sentence’ is that it’s a multi-year process,” explained Rich Greenfield, an analyst at the research firm BTIG.
An FCC hearing under its rigorous judicial process, he said, “would involve senior Comcast executives taking the stand, and it’s very hard to imagine Comcast fighting a multi-year battle with the government. Even if they won that, it sounds like the Department of Justice is waiting to sue, so then you’d have to go to war with the DoJ.”
Rather than face a lengthy legal battle on two different fronts, the easiest way forward for Comcast appears to be to scuttle the merger entirely.
A reverse termination fee, or breakup fee, is usually a consolation prize for the smaller partner in a merger, paid by the larger partner if such a mega-deal fails – in Comcast’s case, probably about $1.35bn. Time Warner agreed to waive that fee last year.
From the moment the Comcast-Time Warner deal was proposed, critics questioned the possible consumer benefit from a merger that created a company with such a large share across multiple markets.
Others pointed to Comcast’s moves during its most recent huge merger, with NBCUniversal, in particular its record on providing broadband to low-income households in markets like its hometown of Philadelphia, as it had promised to do. Comcast was responding to those charges as recently as Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in September, there was plentiful speculation about HBO’s rumored streaming-only service. Now that the service is here, how did the speculation stack up to the reality? Here’s a trip back to some of those early predictions.
Speaking at an investment conference earlier this week, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said that the company is “seriously considering what is the best way to deal with online distribution.” For the many who have been pushing HBO to package HBO GO as a separate entity for awhile now, this is no small statement. And with Netflix marching ever forward to corner the streaming market, this could be a crucial moment for HBO.
Yet offering HBO GO without a subscription to HBO presents a number of difficult questions. While it’s undoubtedly a tantalizing possibility, there are as many challenges inherent in this scenario as there are benefits.
Pro: Easier for “Cord Cutters” and Millennials to Watch Their Favorite Shows
Offering HBO GO sans HBO already gels with the way a large number of millennials watch television. According to newfound data, this is a demographic that ingests three times more TV online than their older counterparts.
These millennials are often lumped in as part of a larger group that’s been dubbed “cord cutters,” aka people who’ve dumped cable entirely to watch television through the Internet. And they’re a group that’s growing. A study that came out in June found that 2.9 percent of pay-TV consumers in this country are planning on canceling their cable service and joining the ranks of the cord cutters in the next year. This doesn’t sound like much until you take into account that this number is up from 2.7 percent last year, which was up from 2.2 percent the year before that, indicating American cord cutters are rising steadily.
Together, as millennials and cord cutters reject cable, they are changing the face of American television. HBO GO becoming its own service would be a huge victory for them, and for the shifting trends they represent.
Con: Harder for HBO to Create Content
However, offering HBO GO separately from HBO could come at a price. Because for now, HBO, and all the content they provide, are still very much entrenched in a classic model of distribution.
When viewers first started to clamor for standalone HBO GO accounts several years ago, Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch observed, “HBO currently has about 29 million subscribers and reportedly receives around $7 or $8 per subscriber per month. So HBO could, theoretically, get more per subscriber than it’s currently making. But that doesn’t include the cost of infrastructure needed to support delivery of all those streams, including all the CDN delivery and other costs that would come with rolling out a broader online-only service.”
He continues, “More importantly, it wouldn’t include the cost of sales, marketing, and support—and this is where HBO would really get screwed. Going direct to online customers by pitching HBO GO over-the-top would mean losing the support of its cable, satellite, and IPTV distributors. And since the Comcasts and the Time Warner Cables of the world are the top marketing channel for premium networks like HBO, it would be nearly impossible for HBO to make up for the loss of the cable provider’s marketing team or promotions.”
What does this ultimately mean for you, the consumer? In short, it means that if HBO suffers, their output also suffers.
So far, HBO is doing just fine in their fight against Netflix. Of course, they’re not able to provide the same wide array of movies and TV shows from other networks, but they’re as prestigious as ever, and they have several huge hits on their hands. In fact, Game of Thrones just surpassed The Sopranos to become their highest rated show ever. Read the rest of this entry »
Tina Nguyen reports: Today, Comcast and Time Warner Cable were served with a lawsuit from a group of African-American media owners seeking $20 billion — yes, “billion,” with a “b” — for discriminatory practices, and alleges that Al Sharpton and his organizations received big money to look the other way.
“The money includes $3.8 million to Sharpton and his National Action Network. The money, it’s charged, was meant to pay Sharpton to endorse the NBCU deal and divert attention away from discrimination.”
The suit, filed by the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) and obtained by the The Hollywood Reporter, claims that despite touting itself as a diverse company, Comcast and TWC only carries one channel owned by a black media owner and refuses to carry any others. Furthermore, the diversity Comcast presents — including the hiring of minority personalities such as
Sharpton, and including a “memorandum of understanding” they signed with the NAACP and Sharpton’s National Urban League — is “a sham, undertaken to whitewash Comcast’s discriminatory business practices.”
The lawsuit specifically targets Comcast’s practices: so far, they argue, only one channel in Comcast’s lineup, The Africa Channel, is owned by a black person (and that person facilitated Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal, “thus creating a serious conflict of interest”). And speaking of that purchase, the suit alleges that Comcast paid off Sharpton, an employee of MSNBC, to support that acquisition — specifically, to say that Comcast was an awesomely diverse company:
The lawsuit goes on to say that Comcast made large cash “donations” to obtain support for its acquisition. The money includes $3.8 million to Sharpton and his National Action Network. The money, it’s charged, was meant to pay Sharpton to endorse the NBCU deal and divert attention away from discrimination. As for Sharpton’s MSNBC gig, the complaint says, “Despite the notoriously low ratings that Sharpton’s show generates, Comcast has allowed Sharpton to maintain his hosting position for more than three years in exchange for Sharpton’s continued public support for Comcast on issues of diversity.”
In a statement to THR, Comcast said it was “disappointing that [NAAAOM] have decided to file a frivolous lawsuit” and that they planned to defend themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
Prank callers masquerading as Comcast representatives have reportedly found fresh victims on the company’s Twitter feed, phoning frustrated customers simply to insult them.
Consumer advocate Chris Elliott reports that two victims received a call from self-proclaimed customer service representatives shortly after they had posted complaints to @Comcastcares, one of the cable service provider’s official Twitter feeds.
“We are Comcast, and we can charge you whatever the f*** we want’,” one customer was told. The call was recorded, and included unprintable physical and sexual threats, according to Elliott’s eponymous blog
Comcast traced the call to Ontario, Canada, where the company does not maintain a call center. A company spokesperson definitively declared it a “hoax.”
This isn’t the first time a Comcast customer has been taunted with obscenities. Some customers had previously received bills where their names were replaced by insults such as “Whore” and “Dummy,” Arstechnica reports. Comcast traced…
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FCC Internet Regulation Scheme: ‘Saddles Small, Independent Businesses and Entrepreneurs with Heavy-Handed Regulations that will Push them Out of the Market’Posted: February 10, 2015
Giuseppe Macri reports: Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on Friday raised the first of many criticisms to come about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s aggressive net neutrality plan distributed to commissioners Thursday, which Pai described as “President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet.”
“Courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation. There’s no reason to think that the third time will be the charm. Even a cursory look at the plan reveals glaring legal flaws that are sure to mire the agency in the muck of litigation for a long, long time.”
In a statement released Friday, Pai lamented the fact that the 332-page plan, which he tweeted a picture of himself holding next to a picture of Obama, won’t be released to the public until after the commission votes on its implementation later this month.
Here is President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet. I wish the public could see what’s inside. pic.twitter.com/bwwAsk8ZiB
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) February 6, 2015
“President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works,” Pai said. “The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband… These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.”
In his initial cursory overview of the plan, the commissioner said it would hinder broadband investment, slow network speed and expansion, limit outgrowth to rural areas of the country and reduce Internet service provider (ISP) competition.
“The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market,” Pai said. “As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get.”
In an op-ed detailing the core aspects of his net neutrality plan published earlier this week, Wheeler described lumping ISPs under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act — which based its authority on that used to regulate telephone monopolies at the dawn of the communication age — as the cornerstone. Read the rest of this entry »
“while I was pleased with several of Comcast-NBC’s voluntary public interest commitments, more can be done to achieve our diversity objectives.”
For Variety, Ted Johnson reports: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 51 other lawmakers, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are pressing the FCC to ensure that upcoming mergers include “enforceable commitments” to boost media ownership, programming, advertising and other opportunities for women and minorities.
“In similar ‘mega-merger’ transactions in recent years, companies have attempted to demonstrate their ‘good corporate citizenship’ by identifying past philanthropic donations they have made to various charitable organizations and promising additional such donations.”
The letter cited the proposed mergers of Time Warner Cable and Comcast, and of AT&T and DirecTV, as well as “the imminent announcement” of Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile. The FCC’s merger reviews examine whether the transactions are in the public interest. Read the rest of this entry »
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is changing the agency’s recent proposal to regulate broadband Internet after a wave of public outcry asserted the agency’s plan would set up a hierarchy of slow-to-fast Internet traffic, and mandate higher payments for acceptable speeds and unfiltered content.
The Wall Street Journal reports the new proposal will make ”assurances that the agency won’t allow companies to segregate web traffic into fast and slow lanes,” but will still let Internet service providers broker deals with Internet content creators to pay for faster content delivery to customers under the agency’s supervision.
In a joint letter Wednesday, some 150 companies told the Federal Communications Commission its proposed rules over net neutrality would permit phone and cable firms to discriminate “both technically and financially” against companies providing online services.
“Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization,” they said.
They said the regulations “should make the market for Internet services more transparent” and warned that fair rules “are essential for the future of the Internet.”
The letter challenged the FCC’s proposed rules on how Internet service providers — mainly a handful of telecommunications giants who control the transmission of data via cable and airwaves — can negotiate individual deals over access levels, speed and priority with online companies rather than keeping access completely neutral. Read the rest of this entry »
For the Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti writes: The communications giant Comcast announced in February that it would buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, creating the largest cable provider in America, with more than 33 million customers. That is about one third of the U.S. cable and satellite television market. FCC approval is required for the merger to go into effect. Critics of the deal say it would lessen competition and lead to even shoddier customer service. They are probably right, as all of us will soon find out, because there is little chance the merger will be stopped. Comcast, Time Warner, and their political fixers have spent years preparing for this moment—by buying off the Democratic Party.
” In a media environment that already tilts leftward, the NBC networks, which Comcast owns, distinguish themselves as especially pro-Obama.”
Comcast, which employs more than 100 lobbyists, spent almost $19 million last year on lobbying activities. Its president and CEO, Brian L. Roberts, is a golf buddy of President Obama’s, and a Democratic donor who has contributed thousands of dollars not only to the president’s campaigns, but also to the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the DNC Services Corporation, and to Steny Hoyer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Bob Casey.
“Comcast has one channel, MSNBC, which is almost entirely devoted to furthering the president’s agenda and the broader priorities of the American progressive movement.”
Roberts’ executive vice president, David Cohen, is a former aide to Democratic bigwig Ed Rendell. Cohen skirts lobbying regulations through loopholes, has raised more than $2 million for Obama since 2007, and in 2011 hosted a DNC fundraiser at which the president called him “friend.” Cohen has visited the White House 14 times since 2010, including two visits to the Oval Office. He attended the recent dinner for President Hollande of France.
Comcast has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, combining the two largest cable companies in the country.
If the deal is approved, the combined group will be the country’s dominant provider of television channels and Internet connections, reaching roughly one in three American homes.
The two companies expect the merger to take effect by the end of the year, but regulators are likely to take a close look at the potential impact on consumers.
To address those concerns, Comcast said it was prepared to divest about 3 million subscribers. But it would still have about 30 million customers. Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit will lead the merged company.
John Nolte writes: Business Insider reports that the television industry is “having its worst year ever.” Ratings have plummeted, and so have subscribers to bundled cable television — which is the Golden Cash Cow of Hollywood. Since 2010, cable providers have lost 5 million subscribers. During the last quarter alone 113,000 cable customers said goodbye.
For decades, cable providers gained a lot more customers than they ever lost, but those days are long over. For the first time in the industry’s history, there are fewer than 40 million customers paying for cable from America’s major providers. People are obviously moving online, choosing to stream the television shows and films they want to watch, and doing so when they choose to. Appointment television is as dead as Barack Obama’s credibility.
Streaming is a much better deal for consumers. Instead of facing punishing prices for a bundled cable package that makes you pay for dozens of channels you never watch, streaming offers choice and value and convenience. Some programming is still exclusively available via bundled cable or satellite only. Eventually, though, that will have to change. Entertainment providers will have to go to where the people are. Read the rest of this entry »