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 »
Forget gilded mansions and super yachts. Among the tech elite, space exploration is now the ultimate status symbol.
On board was a $200m, 12,000lb communications satellite – part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org project to deliver broadband access to sub-Saharan Africa.
Zuckerberg wrote, with a note of bitterness, on his Facebook page that he was “deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite”. SpaceX founder Elon Musk told CNN it was the “most difficult and complex failure” the 14-year-old company had ever experienced.
It was also the second dramatic explosion in nine months for SpaceX, following a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” of a booster rocket as it attempted to land after a successful mission to the International Space Station.
Yet despite those challenges, a small band of billionaire technocrats have spent the past few years investing hundreds of millions of dollars into space ventures. Forget gilded mansions and super yachts; among the tech elite, space exploration is the ultimate status symbol.
Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002, is arguably the most visible billionaire in the new space race. The apparent inspiration for Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark character in Iron Man, Musk has become a god-like figure for engineers, making his fortune at PayPal and then as CEO of luxury electric car firm Tesla and clean energy company Solar City. Yet it is his galactic ambitions, insiders say, that really motivate him. “His passion is settling Mars,” says one.
SpaceX has completed 32 successful launches since 2006, delivered cargo to the International Space Station and secured more than $10bn in contracts with Nasa and other clients. Musk has much grander ambitions, though, saying he plans to create a “plan B” for humanity in case Earth ultimately fails. He once famously joked that he hoped to die on Mars – just not on impact. Read the rest of this entry »
The unparalleled increase in regulatory burdens spells a decline in economic freedom and individual liberty, with a concomitant increase in political gamesmanship and cronyism—all of which inhibits innovation, investment and job creation, increases prices, and curtails consumer choice.
James Gattuso and Diane Katz report: The tide of red tape that threatens to drown U.S. consumers and businesses surged yet again in 2015, according to a Heritage Foundation study we released on Monday.
More than $22 billion per year in new regulatory costs were imposed on Americans last year, pushing the total burden for the Obama years to exceed $100 billion annually.
That’s a dollar for every star in the galaxy, or one for every second in 32 years.
The consequences of this rampant rulemaking are widespread:
- Restricted access to credit under the hundreds of rules unleashed by the Dodd–Frank financial regulation statute
- Fewer health care choices and higher medical costs from the Affordable Care Act
- Reduced Internet investment and innovation under the network neutrality rules dictated by the Federal Communications Commission
These are just a few of the 2,353 regulations of 2015—and there have been 20,642 since Obama took office in 2009.
The worst of last year’s wave—in terms of cost, at least—was the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan.”
The rule represents the first direct regulation of so-called greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, at a cost of $7.2 billion a year (and far more according to critics). Despite the huge costs, the plan will do nothing to mitigate global warming.
America’s problem with excessive regulation did not start with the Obama administration, of course. Read the rest of this entry »
These U.S. regulations stall innovation.
Christopher S. Yoo writes:The decade-long debate over network neutrality reached a moment of truth earlier this month when a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., heard oral arguments in the judicial challenge to the open Internet rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in February. Admittedly, the questions that judges ask often provide little guidance as to what they will eventually decide. But both proponents and opponents of network neutrality agree that the FCC had a tough day.
The court focused attention on three aspects of the FCC’s order. First, the judges questioned the agency’s authority to regulate the handling of traffic within fixed-line networks, such as cable modem or DSL systems. Second, they challenged the propriety of the rules mandating network neutrality within wireless networks. Third, they scrutinized the rules governing interconnection, which is how networks exchange traffic with each other.
The judges seemed to challenge the agency hard on the second and third issues, the ones regarding mobile networks and interconnection. Their primary concern focused on certain last-minute changes to the order. Specifically, the judges questioned whether the public was given proper notice of those changes and whether the changes were properly integrated into the overall regulatory scheme. The FCC fared the best on the first issue, but even then it faced tough questions about why the scheme differed so much from the way the rules were initially proposed. Read the rest of this entry »
Cuckoo Bananas ‘Star Wars’ Fans Issue Death Threats to National Review Writer and Fox News Contributor Katherine TimpfPosted: November 25, 2015
Death Threats for Mocking ‘Star Wars‘
“A lot of people are clearly a lot of upset. But guess what? I’m not apologizing. Why? Because the all-too-common knee-jerk reaction of apologizing for harmless jokes after overblown hysteria is ruining our culture. This political-correctness obsession threatens free speech, and I absolutely refuse to be a part of it.”
Andrea Towers reports: Not everyone is excited about seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters this holiday season.
Nice that he at least gives an exact time! pic.twitter.com/K8DlC0C42R
— Katherine Timpf (@KatTimpf) November 25, 2015
I told a joke on a satire show at 3am a month ago so yes I actually am surprised I’m being threatened with murder https://t.co/4UWyUCQl3K
— Katherine Timpf (@KatTimpf) November 25, 2015
Last month, Fox News contributor Katherine Timpf jokingly insulted fans who were excited for the newest trailer during a guest stint on the late-night political comedy show Red Eye w/ Tom Shillue. Now, Timpf has revealed she’s recieving death threats for her comments.
“You people are crazy. You Star Wars people are crazy. Yesterday I tweeted something, and all I said was that I wasn’t familiar with Star Wars…You’re not really branding yourself in a way that makes me want to join your life-threatening club.”
“I have never had any interest in watching space nerds poke each other with their little space nerd sticks, and I’m not going to start now,” Timpf shared on the original broadcast. “You people are crazy. You Star Wars people are crazy…”
- Video of Star Wars fan bashing National Review’s Kat Timpf goes viral
- Katherine Timpf: No Apology for Star Wars Joke
- Fox News commentator receives death threats for Star Wars joke
- Fox News Contributor Gets Death Threats For Mocking ‘Star Wars’ Fans
- ‘Go get ’em’! NRO’s Kat Timpf is ‘NOT SORRY’ for pissing off ‘totally insane’ Star Wars fans
- Fox News Contributor Gets Death Threats After ‘Star Wars’ Joke
“…Yesterday I tweeted something, and all I said was that I wasn’t familiar with Star Wars because I’ve been too busy liking cool things and being attractive — people threatened my life. You’re not really branding yourself in a way that makes me want to join your life-threatening club.”
— Pundit Planet (@punditfap) November 25, 2015
Brian Barrett writes: It’s easy to take Wi-Fi for granted (as long as you have the password). But what if it did more than facilitate your Pinterest habit? What if instead of just connecting your devices to the Internet, it charged them as well, no wires required?
That’s the promise of new research from a team at the University of Washington, which has developed what it’s calling a “power over Wi-Fi” system that can recharge batteries through the air, from up to 28 feet away.
“If we wanted to just blast as much power as we possibly can, that would kill your Wi-Fi, because you’d have power on the channel all the time. We optimized the router so that we can deliver what seems like, to the sensor, constant power without impacting your Wi-Fi too much.”
— Bryce Kellogg, a researcher on the project.
The system comprises just two components; an access point (a router), and custom-built sensors. “The goal of the sensors is to harvest RF (radio frequency) power and convert it into DC power,” explains Vamsi Talla, a researcher on the project. “The second piece, the access point, there we actually developed a custom solution on it, just a software modification that would enable the access point to act both as a good power delivery source and, simultaneously, also as a good Wi-Fi router.” In other words, it achieves power over Wi-Fi in a way that both works with pre-existing hardware, and doesn’t interfere with your Internet connection one bit.
“Instead of having continuous power on one of your Wi-Fi channels, we split it among your three non-overlapping Wi-Fi channels. That allows us to deliver about the same amount of power without impacting any one channel very much.”
Those are two important distinctions. As Popular Science notes, Energous already sells a device that transmits power through the air through RF signals. It requires entirely new, dedicated hardware, though, and loses the Wi-Fi aspect. The UW research, meanwhile, can coexist with traditional Wi-Fi routers, pushing both data and energy simultaneously. Or, more accurately, efficiently harnessing the energy that your router already puts out. 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 »
The Doll records children’s speech with an embedded microphone and sends it over the web
An advocacy group protested on Wednesday a so-called “eavesdropping” Barbie, which records children’s speech and sends that data over the Web.
The Doll records children’s speech with an embedded microphone and sends it over the web, which leaves kids vulnerable to stealth advertising tactics, the group said.
Chief executive Oren Jacob of ToyTalk, the San Francisco-based startup that created the technology in the doll, told the Journal that the captured audio files is “never used for anything to do with marketing or publicity or any of that stuff. Not at all.” Instead, the technology is used to improve speech recognition, Jacob said.
Children press a button to chat with Hello Barbie, which “listens” to their speech and sends the audio recording over a WiFi connection to ToyTalk’s cloud-based servers, where that speech is recognized and processed. The Barbie can then make a response….(read more)
Expanding Government Overreach: FCC Approves Internet Regulation, Setting Stage For Taxation, Censorship, Legal BattlesPosted: February 26, 2015
Government promises net will be ‘neutral’, just like the Affordable Care Act’s promise to make health care ‘affordable’. Public excluded from process in advance of vote. Telecom, cable industries expected to challenge.
The 3-2 vote, along party lines, starts the clock ticking on an expected legal challenge from the telecom and cable industries.
The move marks a turn in the government’s approach to the Internet—from a hands off policy dating back two decades to encourage the Web’s growth to a more interventionist posture as commercial issues have multiplied.
It was spurred on by companies—such as Netflix Inc. —worried that they could face more onerous terms for carrying their traffic and by President Barack Obama , who made an unusual public plea for the rules late last year. The new regulations were strongly opposed by carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., and they even drew warnings from Google Inc., which told the White House privately it was making a mistake.
The rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking Web traffic or charging websites for priority service. They also extend the FCC’s reach into the middle of the Internet by saying the commission will review so-called interconnection deals between companies such as Netflix and Comcast Corp. on a case-by-case basis to make sure they are reasonable.
Despite all the wrestling over legal principle, little is likely to change for consumers in the near term. Carriers very rarely block any traffic, and experiments like letting Web companies pay for toll-free mobile service haven’t gone very far. But advocates said the rules will preserve the open environment that has helped Web companies blossom.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who revealed details of the new rules earlier this month, received a standing ovation when he entered the commission room ahead of the vote.
“Broadband is essential, like water,” Mr. Wozniak said.
Verizon, in a statement typed on a Remington typewriter and datelined Feb. 26, 1934, harking back to the Communications Act passed that year, criticized the rules as antiquated and likely to create uncertainty that will hurt innovation. The new rules involve reclassifying broadband service as a telecom service regulated by Title II of the Act, which governs the more highly regulated phone business.
Mr. Wheeler reiterated Thursday that the commission is only doing so to establish regulatory authority to enforce net neutrality and it won’t impose more onerous regulations such as price controls.
The full FCC order will be available on the commission’s website within the next few weeks and will take effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register. Read the rest of this entry »
“For the FCC to do what they want to do, to try to create net neutrality as the norm, they have to have a hook to hang it on,” Clinton said. She said it’s the only hook the FCC’s got. But that’d she’d vote for regulating the Internet.
“It’s a foot in the door, it’s a value statement, I think the president is right to be upfront and out front on that.”
And despite her husband’s administration not taking such action, Clinton suggested the Internet had devoloped in such a way that something needed to be changed…..(read more)
Matt Drudge: ‘May the Democrats Burn in Hell for Opening the Doors to Endless Internet regulation. I Mean Really Burn.’Posted: February 25, 2015
May the Democrats burn in hell for opening the doors to endless Internet regulation. I mean really burn.
— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) February 25, 2015
[VIDEO] Meet the Department of the Internet! We’ll be Handling the Internet You Love, but at the Speed of GovernmentPosted: February 24, 2015
Meet the Department of the Internet! We’ll be handling the Internet you love, but at the speed of government. https://t.co/xDIjKdpete
— Dept. Of Internet (@Dept_Internet) February 23, 2015
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 24, 2015
Jason Leopold writes: Republican lawmakers are not pleased with the FCC‘s proposed new open Internet rules — set to be publicly released next Thursday — that call for aggressively regulating broadband providers like a utility. And they want to know how the FCC came up with them.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, will chair a hearing Wednesday about whether the White House improperly influenced the independent agency and pressured its chairman, Tom Wheeler, to develop a net neutrality plan that mirrored recommendations President Barack Obama made last November. Obama had called on the FCC to classify broadband as a public utility and adopt open internet rules that would ensure that “neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.”
“There’s more than enough smoke here to warrant a further investigation. I think the FCC has to answer in totality what sort of interaction they had with the White House. If there’s nothing to hide, then provide all of those emails unredacted.”
The congressional hearing was initiated after Chaffetz reviewed heavily redacted emails and other documents VICE News obtained from the FCC two weeks ago in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request; the emails show White House officials and Wheeler communicating about net neutrality. VICE News sought comment from Chaffetz’s office about the email exchanges and shared the documents with him.
Wheeler unveiled details of the FCC’s new net neutrality guidelines in an op-ed published in Wired earlier this month. His decision to classify broadband as a utility surprised net neutrality advocates who believed Wheeler, a former lobbyist for telecom firms, would adopt the draft proposal the FCC approved last May that would have authorized broadband providers to create “fast lanes” for content companies willing to pay for the service.
Chaffetz’s suspicions about the White House’s influence over the FCC’s decision is based on a February 4 Wall Street Journal report that alleged two senior White House officials, David Edelman and Tom Power, held dozens of secret meetings with “online activists, Web startups, and traditional telecommunications companies” in an effort to build a case for net neutrality.
After the Journal story was published, Chaffetz and Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson sent letters to Wheeler requesting a wide-range of documents including visitor logs and emails, and set a February 23 deadline for the FCC to produce the records.
“I am concerned that undue outside pressure may have led you to this decision,” Johnson wrote in his letter to Wheeler. “In particular, my concern is the apparent pressure exerted on you and your agency by the White House.”
“The White House is not an ‘agency.’ Does the FCC run emails from congresspeople or citizens outside of government by them before processing them for FOIA? I don’t think so. I think in this case they gave the White House a political privilege.”
— Nate Jones, a FOIA expert at George Washington University’s National Security Archive
The emails VICE News obtained from the FCC show that as far back as last May, when Wheeler released the FCC’s draft net neutrality proposal, Edelman, Power, and other White House officials were communicating with Wheeler and his senior staff about the plan. However, the emails are so heavily redacted that its unknown what was discussed or whether it rises to the level of “undue” influence. (The FCC cited a privacy exemption and the deliberative process privilege, which protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters” from disclosure, as the reasons for blacking out the emails.)
Since last year, the FCC has turned over to VICE News thousands of pages of heavily redacted records, It has withheld thousands of pages more about the agency’s internal discussions related to net neutrality.
In a letter dated February 9 included with the batch of White House emails, Kirk Burgee, the chief of staff for the Wireline Competition Bureau, one of seven FCC bureaus that advises the commission on policy related to wireline telecommunications, said the emails were redacted at the behest of the White House.
Although we have not completed the consultation process with the Department of State, we have completed the consultation process with NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] and the White House. As a result of that consultation, we are releasing an email exchange among Larry Strickling (Associate Administrator of NTIA), Tom Power (Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), White House), Ross David Edelman (OSTP), and Chairman Wheeler. These records have been redacted pursuant to FOIA exemptions 5 and 6 which are consistent with those recommended by NTIA and the White House. We are also releasing an email exchange between Tom Power and Chairman Wheeler (which includes an email exchange among FCC staff and Chairman Wheeler) and an email exchange between John Podesta and Chairman Wheeler (which includes an email exchange among Jeffrey Zients (Executive Office of the President (EOP), White House), Jason Furman (EOP, White House), and Tom Power). These documents also include redactions under Exemptions 5 and 6 consistent with those recommended by the White House.
Burgee’s letter footnoted two documents to justify the redactions: a January 29 email sent by associate White House counsel Nicholas McQuaid to Joanne Wall at the FCC’s office of general counsel; and a December 31, 2014 letter from Kathy D. Smith, chief counsel, NTIA, US Department of Commerce, to Elizabeth Lyle, the FCC’s assistant general counsel.
The FCC disclosed a copy of the letter Lyle signed and sent to McQuaid asking for guidance on whether any of the emails at issue should be released to VICE News and, if so, what should be redacted. The FCC also released an identical letter the agency sent to NTIA requesting redactions to documents.
An FCC spokesman told VICE News the Justice Department’s FOIA guidance, which “the Commission strictly adheres to,” “makes clear that the Commission should not unilaterally decide to release records that involve other agencies. Consistent with the guidance, the FCC always consults with other agencies on the sensitivity of a document before determining whether to disclose it.”
Nate Jones, a FOIA expert at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, said the FCC spokesperson’s interpretation of the federal FOIA guidelines is a “bit off.” Read the rest of this entry »
“The FCC has now rolled out its initial plan, it’s 332 pages. Although when I say rolled out, that word has to be used lightly, because you and I are not allowed to read those 332 pages. They literally have a book, this is how we are going to regulate the internet, and by the way, no one gets to read it. One FCC commissioner held up the book and said ‘I guess you got to pass it to find out what’s in it,’ echoing Nancy Pelosi,” Cruz says in a statement.
“If the FCC turns the Internet into a regulated public utility, the innovation, the creativity that has characterized the Internet from its dawn, will inevitably be stifled. Now Title II by the way, gives all sorts of authority to regulate pricing and terms of service, and one of the implications if the Internet is regulated under Title II is 11 billion dollars a year in new taxes… Think about whether 11 billion dollars a year on the Internet is a good thing or a bad thing.
“Now here’s where the FCC says, ‘no don’t worry, we won’t collect those taxes, we’re going to exercise forbearance,’ I don’t know if you’ve heard the ancient fable about the frog who gives the scorpion a ride across the river, and half way across the river the scorpion stabs the frog and they both sink under the water and as they’re going under, the frog says, ‘why, now we both will die’, and the scorpion tells the frog, ‘because it is my nature.’ I promise you, it is the nature of the government regulators, if they have it, they will use it, 100 percent of the time, it will grow, the taxes will come.
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 »
Panel to Investigate Whether White House Improperly Influenced Agency on Broadband Rules
WASHINGTON — Gautham Nagesh and Siobhan Hughes report: A House oversight committee on Friday said it was launching an investigation into whether the White House improperly influenced the Federal Communications Commission on its new rules for how broadband providers treat traffic on their networks.
“The White House needs to get its hands off the FCC.”
— Rep. Fred Upton
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Friday demanding all documents and communications between the FCC and the White House or other executive-branch agencies on the issue, along with all internal discussion at the FCC.
Mr. Wheeler on Wednesday made public the outlines of a proposal that would ban broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up certain websites in exchange for payment.
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
The plan would use strong utility-like rules to regulate broadband companies, an approach largely in line with President Barack Obama ’s call in November for the “strongest possible rules” to protect net neutrality—the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.
To implement those rules, Mr. Wheeler proposed reclassifying broadband from a lightly regulated information service to a more strictly overseen telecommunications service. Advocates of such an approach say that without such rules, broadband companies could charge tolls to websites for their fastest speeds, putting startups and smaller websites at a disadvantage.
Mr. Wheeler had previously laid out proposals to his fellow commissioners that wouldn’t have used the public-utility route. Then Mr. Obama made his statement in November, one of a series of events outlined in a Wall Street Journal article Thursday that appeared to leave Mr. Wheeler little choice but to go with the stronger rules.
“[R]eports indicate that views expressed by the White House potentially had an improper influence on the development of the draft Open Internet Order circulated internally at the Commission on February 5, 2015,” Mr. Chaffetz wrote.
Neither the White House nor the FCC responded to requests for comment.
Earlier on Friday, FCC Special Counsel Gigi Sohn rejected the notion that the president’s statement forced Mr. Wheeler’s hand.
“I think what the president’s statement did was rather than force the chairman’s hand was give him cover to do something that he already was thinking about doing,” Ms. Sohn said during an interview on C-Span.
In his letter, Mr. Chaffetz said he is particularly interested in “how the FCC communicated with the White House and other Executive Branch agencies.”
He also requested a briefing on the issue within two weeks. The commission plans to vote on the proposal Feb. 26. Read the rest of this entry »
Musicians and Kardashians may claim they can break the Internet by posting alluring photographs, but they have nothing on Tom Wheeler
The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission unveiled on Wednesday a plan to demolish a policy that for two decades has allowed the Internet to become the jewel of world-wide communication and commerce. His new “Open Internet” plan represents a monumental shift from open markets in favor of government control. It is a grave threat to American innovation.
“Mr. Wheeler is seeking to overturn Bill Clinton’s policy of allowing the Internet to grow as a lightly regulated “information service” because Mr. Wheeler does not want light regulation.”
In a piece for Wired magazine, Mr. Wheeler announced that this week he will circulate to his fellow commissioners a plan to enact what President Obama demanded in November: century-old telephone regulation for today’s broadband communications companies.
“In an acrobatic feat of Orwellian logic, Mr. Wheeler even implies that telephone-style regulation must come to the Net to prevent problems that existed in the old telephone network, such as the difficulty faced by entrepreneurs trying to deploy new communications devices.”
“This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles,” wrote Mr. Wheeler, and he’s right. The game plan is to apply to competitive digital networks rules originally written for monopoly railroads in the 1800s. But don’t worry, this “common carrier” regulatory structure was modernized for telephones as recently as the summer of 1934 when Franklin Roosevelt signed the Communications Act.
“Mr. Wheeler may promise forbearance, but watch out, because that’s not how government works. The nature of bureaucracies is to grab power and expand it. Once the FCC assumes the authority to set “rates, terms and conditions” across the online economy, expect a political land rush.”
The Wheeler cover story is that such antiquated rules are necessary to provide “net neutrality,” the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally and not blocked from reaching consumers—in other words, to allow the Internet to function pretty much as it does now. Read the rest of this entry »
As regulators weigh imposing net neutrality on the Web, Congress tries to pre-empt government overreach
Robert M. McDowell writes: The Federal Communications Commission is about to answer the most important question in its 80-year history: Does the agency intend to protect the open Internet, or is it lunging to seize unlimited power over the Web? We’ll find out on Feb. 26 when the FCC votes on “net-neutrality” rules that would treat the Internet like a public utility, with regulators potentially setting rates, terms and conditions for providers.
Meanwhile, the new Congress is maneuvering to change the net-neutrality equation, with hearings in the House and Senate beginning Wednesday. Republicans circulated draft bills on Friday to pre-empt the FCC’s overreaching new rules while still attaining the White House’s ostensible policy goals. Even congressional supporters of net neutrality, wary of increasing FCC power over something as vast and crucial as the Internet, are working to draft an alternative.
While Republicans and Democrats try to work out a deal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler should hit the pause button on next month’s vote and let the elected representatives of the American people try to find common ground. At the end of this constitutional process, all sides may be able to claim victory.
“For opponents of new FCC rules, the bills could take Title II off the table; restore regulatory certainty; protect free speech; and create a legal firewall that would protect investment and innovation in the Web’s computer-network infrastructures from more government meddling.”
For years Washington has debated how to keep the Internet open and free from government or private coercion. Regulation proponents have argued that new rules are needed to prevent Internet service providers, such as phone, wireless and cable companies, from blocking or degrading the online content or applications consumers want. Though no market failure exists, and regulators have never conducted a study to diagnose the alleged potential illness, the FCC has twice tried to impose new rules on the Web. Each time it lost in court.
“This would also send a strong signal to foreign governments and international regulatory bodies that they should not smother the Web with antiquated rules designed in an era when people held their phones with two hands.”
The tragedy of this debate is that no one, including phone, wireless and cable companies, has ever contested the goals of keeping the Internet open. It has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was privatized in the mid-1990s because it is protected under existing antitrust and consumer-protection laws. Instead, the fight has been over how much regulatory power the FCC should wield. Read the rest of this entry »
Net neutrality isn’t something we want. It’s a threat to the Internet. It must die.
Some helpful links for those who don’t believe the graphic:
- FCC “secret” tax plan a threat to the Internet (Internet Freedom Coalition)
- FCC Plans Stealth Internet Tax Increase (Forbes)
Why, then, is Government Enforcement Suddenly Necessary to Maintain the Status Quo?
At The Corner, Ian Tuttle writes:
….Writing at National Review Online in July, Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly noted that “on the issue of net neutrality, the [FCC] has already conceded that there is no current harm to consumers . . . [and] bragged that the rules would be ‘prophylactic.’”
I am all for planning ahead, but basing sweeping government action on the argument that “while there is no problem currently, there could be in the future” is hardly persuasive. What couldn’t one justify by that logic?
Now, it may eventually be the case that the complex Internet economy falls prey to quasi-monopolistic forces who abuse consumers, requiring some 21st-century trust-busting. But what is certainly the case is that the Internet has thrived in no small part because of the lack of regulation. A comparatively uninhibited market has tempered the excesses to which large companies may be inclined. Net-neutrality rules would substitute bureaucratic rigmarole for market forces, making those innovators about which the president is so enthusiastic beholden not to consumers, but to a five-person board of commissioners (and its bureaucratic labyrinth) and to the courts. Moreover, there is ample reason to believe that net-neutrality rules — like so much other government regulation — would have sprawling unforeseen consequences. What reason is there at this point to risk that?
Moreover, what government regulation of the Internet does exist is already proving to be a stranglehold on innovation. Writing in the July 15, 2013, issue of National Review, Hudson Institute scholar Christopher DeMuth pointed out the ill effects of the FCC’s allocation of wireless broadband:
The shortage of wireless broadband spectrum is certainly a severe problem. It is needlessly raising the costs and retarding the speed and quality of personal communications (Onionheadline: “Internet Collapses Under Sheer Weight of Baby Pictures”). Wireless providers such as Verizon and AT&T have been obliged to raise prices and reduce speeds selectively for heavy users of video and data applications, leading to charges of “discrimination” that the FCC has taken seriously. Read the rest of this entry »
The NSF has already poured nearly $1 million into Truthy. To what end? Why is the federal government spending so much money on the study of your Twitter habits?
“The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel.”
If you tweet your support for a candidate in the November elections, should taxpayer money be used to monitor your speech and evaluate your “partisanship’’?
My guess is that most Americans would answer those questions with a resounding no. But the federal government seems to disagree. The National Science Foundation , a federal agency whose mission is to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense,” is funding a project to collect and analyze your Twitter data.
The project is being developed by researchers at Indiana University, and its purported aim is to detect what they deem “social pollution” and to study what they call “social epidemics,” including how memes — ideas that spread throughout pop culture — propagate. What types of social pollution are they targeting? “Political smears,” so-called “astroturfing” and other forms of “misinformation.”
“The federal government has no business spending your hard-earned money on a project to monitor political speech on Twitter.”
Named “Truthy,” after a term coined by TV host Stephen Colbert, the project claims to use a “sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex network models” to distinguish between memes that arise in an “organic manner” and those that are manipulated into being.
But there’s much more to the story. Focusing in particular on political speech, Truthy keeps track of which Twitter accounts are using hashtags such as #teaparty and #dems.
It estimates users’ “partisanship.” It invites feedback on whether specific Twitter users, such as the Drudge Report, are “truthy” or “spamming.” And it evaluates whether accounts are expressing “positive” or “negative” sentiments toward other users or memes. Read the rest of this entry »
“He stated he is aware it is against government rules and regulations, but he often does not have enough work to do and has free time.”
For the Washington Times, Jim McElhatton reports: For one Federal Communications Commission worker, his porn habit at work was easy to explain: Things were slow, he told investigators, so he perused it “out of boredom” — for up to eight hours each week.
…In other news, the CIA is spying on the Senate, the president is assassinating American citizens, our governors are ungovernable, our cops are criminals, our corruption investigations are corrupt, our anti-crime programs are criminal enterprises, the IRS agents charged with keeping nonprofits from turning into fronts for crass and illegal political campaigns have turned the agency into a front for a crass and illegal political campaign, our Border Patrol agents are engaged in human trafficking . . .
But let’s talk about porn…(read more)
Lack of work has emerged time and again in federal investigations, and it’s not just porn, nor is it confined to the FCC. Across government, employees caught wasting time at work say they simply didn’t have enough work to do, according to investigation records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
“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 »
“Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable.”
Giuseppe Macri reports: Leading avionics technology developer and manufacturer Boeing is breaking into the smartphone market with “Black” – a Mission Impossible-worthy device that self-destructs if an attempt is made to breach its security.
“Boeing’s Black phone will be sold primarily to government agencies and companies engaged in contractual activities with those agencies that are related to defense and homeland security,” Legal counsel for Boeing Bruce Olcott wrote in the company’s detailed letter to the FCC earlier this month, asking the agency to keep the phone’s specs secret. “The device will be marketed and sold in a manner such that low-level technical and operational information about the product will not be provided to the general public.”
Glenn Harlan Reynolds: Americans Rising Up Against Government: Three Examples of Pushback Against the Ruling ClassPosted: February 24, 2014
America’s ruling class has been experiencing more pushback than usual lately. It just might be a harbinger of things to come.
“This is more ‘Irish Democracy,’ passive resistance to government overreach.”
Many local police departments already use license-plate readers that track every car as it passes traffic signals or pole-mounted cameras. Specially equipped police cars even track cars parked on the street or even in driveways.
The DHS put out a bid request for a system that would have gone national, letting the federal government track millions of people’s comings and goings just as it tracks data about every phone call we make. But the proposal was suddenly withdrawn last week, with the unconvincing explanation that it was all a mistake. I’m inclined to agree with TechDirt‘s Tim Cushing, who wrote: “The most plausible explanation is that someone up top at the DHS or ICE suddenly realized that publicly calling for bids on a nationwide surveillance system while nationwide surveillance systems are being hotly debated was … a horrible idea.”
[Order Reynold’s book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself” from Amazon]
On Friday, after more public outrage, the Federal Communications Commission withdrew a plan to “monitor” news coverage at not only broadcast stations, but also at print publications that the FCC has no authority to regulate. The “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN (pronounced “sin”) involved the FCC sending people to question reporters and editors about why they chose to run particular stories. Many folks in and out of the media found it Orwellian…
- Tennessee Law School Professor: (will) Americans ever resist the increasing encroachments on their freedom? (therionorteline.com)
- Americans rising up against government: Column shows that … (teapartyradical.squarespace.com)
- Law professor: Americans are rising up against government (fellowshipoftheminds.com)
- Americans rising up against government: Column (usatoday.com)
- “Irish Democracy” is Alive and Well and Living in America!: Instapundit (reason.com)
- Americans are beginning to rise up against government (gopthedailydose.com)
- USA Today: Americans Rising Up Against Obama Government Is Just Beginning (patdollard.com)
- Americans rising up against government: Column (grumpyelder.com)
- DHS Cancels Plan For National License Plate Tracking System (wchildblog.com)
Intrusive media survey idea was doomed from the start
News Dump: Any surprise this withdrawal is announced on Friday, the customary day to bury unfavorable announcements? This Stalinist-progressive cuckoo-bananas Obama-era idea had no hope of lasting more than 48 hours in the spotlight before being abandoned, buried, disowned. Or is coming back? Do they really plan to ‘tweak’ it, revise it, reintroduce it quietly? Good luck with that.
In the meantime, the administration can enjoy a media transition that worked in their favor: the installation of a new asset on NBC.
The Federal Communications Commission has pulled the plug on its plan to conduct an intrusive probe of newsrooms as part of a “Critical Information Needs” survey of local media markets.
However, a revised version of the survey could raise new concerns: that it will trade its now-kiboshed news questions for a demographic survey that might justify new race-based media ownership rulemaking.
“[I]n the course of FCC review and public comment, concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate,” the FCC announced in a statement Friday. “Chairman [Tom] Wheeler agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required. Last week, Chairman Wheeler informed lawmakers that that Commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters and would be modifying the draft study. Yesterday, the Chairman directed that those questions be removed entirely.”
The Critical Information Needs (CIN) survey has been a slow-burning controversy since ever since this reporter first revealed its existence in October 2013.
First Amendment supporters objected that the design of the survey would have had FCC representatives interrogating newsroom staffers about how they make coverage decisions and select (or spike) story ideas. Many commentators objected to the potential intimidation involved in such a survey.
The original plan of the survey would also have taken the FCC out of its traditional purview of regulating supposedly scarce airwaves. Because the CIN sought to discover “underserved” consumers in a variety of “media ecologies,” the survey would have included not only broadcast media but newspapers, blogs and online news.
However, there have been consistent doubts that the survey was ever going to happen. In a December followup article I found that none of the major broadcast, print or online media in Columbia, South Carolina – the market selected for the Critical Information Needs pilot study – had heard from either the FCC or Silver Spring, Maryland-based Social Solutions International (SSI) the FCC’s contractor on the project.
The American Center for Law and Justice‘s Matthew Clark reports: The Obama Administration’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is poised to place government monitors in newsrooms across the country in an absurdly draconian attempt to intimidate and control the media.
Peter Doocy reports from Washington, D.C.
Before you dismiss this assertion as utterly preposterous (we all know how that turned out when the Tea Party complained that it was being targeted by the IRS), this bombshell of an accusation comes from an actual FCC Commissioner.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai reveals a brand new Obama Administration program that he fears could be used in “pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.”
As Commissioner Pai explains in the Wall Street Journal:
Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.
The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”
In fact, the FCC is now expanding the bounds of regulatory powers to include newspapers, which it has absolutely no authority over, in its new government monitoring program.
Kurt Schlichter writes: If you’re a conservative, you don’t need to silence the opposition.
In fact, we conservatives want liberals to talk, to make buffoons of themselves, to prove their folly. We want liberals to expound upon their ridiculous ideas, to show the world exactly what they’re about. Nancy Pelosi? Give that tiresome woman a microphone. Chatty liberals are the best advertisement for conservatism.
But liberals just can’t have conservatives speaking. We’ll tell the truth, and that’s why liberals need to shut us up.
Their traditional intimidation tactics are wearing out. Calling someone a “racist” used to be a devastating moral indictment. Liberals’ promiscuous employment of the word first turned it into a cliché and then into an ironic punchline.
I know, saying that out loud is racist. And sexist. And cisgender heteronormative, whatever the hell that means.
So now liberals have stepped up to formal governmental repression. Take the IRS scandal – or ex-scandal, in the eyes of the mainstream media. The Obama administration, at the urging of red state Democrat senators who are about to lose their seats because of their track records of failure, are doing everything they can to turn the taxman loose on the organizations that are pointing out their track records of failure.
Unwilling to ask Congress for extra funds to pay for high-speed Internet connections in schools, President Obama is instead looking to tack yet another charge on cellphones through the Federal Communications Commission.
The new program, called ConnectED, would expand an existing school-wiring effort and cost each cellphone user about $5 a year, said White House officials.
In New York City, the ubiquitous mobile devices already carry 10 separate city, state and federal fees and charges — and that doesn’t include sales taxes.
Not on welfare or below the poverty line? Never mind — here’s your free phone.
Confession: You’re paying my phone bill.
In the past month, I have received three shiny new cell phones, courtesy of American taxpayers, that should never have fallen into my hands.
The Federal Communications Commission oversees the so-called Lifeline program, created in 1984 to make sure impoverished Americans had telephone service available to call their moms, bosses, and 911. In 2008, the FCC expanded the program to offer subsidized cell-phone service, and since then, the expenses of running the program have soared. In 2012, the program’s costs had risen to $2.189 billion, up from $822 million before wireless carriers were included. As of June, there were 13.8 million active Lifeline subscriptions.
To be eligible for Lifeline, the applicant is supposed to be receiving some significant government benefit — food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, public housing assistance, etc. But because welfare eligibility has expanded under the Obama administration, more people than ever before are qualified to receive “free” cell-phone service — part of the reason why Lifeline mobiles have become commonly known as Obamaphones. Alternatively, applicants can qualify if their household income is less than 136 percent of the federal poverty line.
But as with any federal program with too much funding, too little oversight, and perverse financial incentives, Lifeline has become infamous for rampant fraud and abuse. There have been news reports about recipients flaunting dozens of subsidized phones. And in February, the Wall Street Journal reported on an FCC audit of the top five Lifeline providers, which found that “41% of their more than six million subscribers either couldn’t demonstrate their eligibility or didn’t respond to requests for certification.”
The FCC supposedly buckled down on eligibility standards last year and established other safeguards aimed at reducing fraud. I was curious about how tough it was to get one of these phones, so last month, I hit the streets of New York. And out of respect for the law and my journalistic integrity, I did not lie to obtain a phone.
BY BERIN SZOKA, MATTHEW STARR, AND JON HENKE
Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives / Flickr
Despite public, political, and business interest in greater broadband deployment, not every American has high-speed internet access yet (let alone a choice of provider for really fast, high-capacity service). So who’s really to blame for strangling broadband competition?
While popular arguments focus on supposed “monopolists“ such as big cable companies, it’s government that’s really to blame. Companies can make life harder for their competitors, but stranglingthe competition takes government.
Broadband policy discussions usually revolve around the U.S. government’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), yet it’s really our local governments and public utilities that impose the most significant barriers to entry.
Game of Kickbacks
Deploying broadband infrastructure isn’t as simple as merely laying wires underground: that’s the easy part. The hard part — and the reason it often doesn’t happen — is the pre-deployment barriers, which local governments and public utilities make unnecessarily expensive and difficult.
Before building out new networks, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must negotiate with local governments for access to publicly owned “rights of way” so they can place their wires above and below both public and private property. ISPs also need “pole attachment” contracts with public utilities so they can rent space on utility poles for above-ground wires, or in ducts and conduits for wires laid underground.
The problem? Local governments and their public utilities charge ISPs far more than these things actually cost. For example, rights of way and pole attachments fees can double the cost of network construction.
So the real bottleneck isn’t incumbent providers of broadband, but incumbent providers of rights-of-way. These incumbents — the real monopolists — also have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. They determine what hoops an ISP must jump through to get approval.
This reduces the number of potential competitors who can profitably deploy service — such as AT&T’s U-Verse, Google Fiber, and Verizon FiOS. The lack of competition makes it easier for local governments and utilities to charge more for rights of way and pole attachments.
It’s a vicious circle. And it’s essentially a system of forced kickbacks. Other kickbacks arguably include municipal requirements for ISPs such as building out service where it isn’t demanded, donatingequipment, and delivering free broadband to government buildings.
So What About Google Fiber?
But the story changes when ISPs have enough leverage.
In Kansas City and Austin, local governments wanted Google Fiber more than they wanted kickbacks. So they expedited the permitting process, gave Google rights-of-way access for little to no cost, andallowed Google to build-out selectively — i.e., in neighborhoods where consumers actually expressed demand.