Google / Verizon Proposal May Be Important Compromise, But Regulatory Trajectory Concerns Many
Recently, the Washington Post opined that the best way for the FCC to "regulate the Internet" was through a moderate approach, one which places limited authority in the Commission to address behavior that violates long-standing Net Neutrality practices.
The paper notes that Net Neutrality has been "a rule tacitly understood by Internet users and providers alike" for more than a decade. It then mildly rebukes the FCC's proposal to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers - "a move [which] would be a serious step backwards," in their view.
Within this context, the Post sees important compromise in the Google / Verizon legislative proposal, "especially its designation of the FCC as an adjudicatory body such as the Federal Trade Commission rather than one with intrusive regulatory authority."
Pub Interest Groups Decry Sunlight - Say It's Corrupting FCC Net Neutrality Process
techdirt's hit kind of a new low in the divisive Net Neutrality debate. Mike Masnick writes that the telcos have got their Net Neutrality deal with the FCC because, well, they have some mighty deep pockets, and they're prepared to use them - either for-or-agin the Dems - come election season. Consequently, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had no choice but to back down from his Net Neutrality / Reclassification madness and give the big boys what they want.
C'mon, Mike! You make the National Enquirer blush.
The "reporting" follows the well worn meme espoused by the Left that when the going gets tough, and the deal looks like it ain't cutting their way - then blame the "monopolists" for corrupting the process. Good lord, get a new riff already.
Free Press, Public Knowledge, MAP and OIC lobbyists (among other "reformistas") have practically installed themselves at the FCC since day one (I think I saw their cots, bedrolls and toiletries there the other day). To claim that they've been left-out strains credulity (as this FCC blog reveals).
Let's see. They've gotten their lobbying dollar's worth out of the Open Internet / Net Neutrality NPRM; the National Broadband Plan; the Wireless Competition Report; the Third Way Statement; the Third Way NOI; the 706 Report; and have supped at the FCC table throughout the "closed-door" Net Neutrality meetings.
Compromise will happen. It should. This is a highly charged debate that has divided many. The FCC hasn't helped any by trying to avoid the will of Congress, end-running around key court decisions, and attempting to jam an innovation-killing rule down the throats of American broadband consumers.
Though I think the Commission is wrong to try to regulate the Internet through broadband Reclassification, I also recognize that some discussion - possibly one that reaches compromise - should occur.
What I do not think is helpful is the idea, seemingly shared by the public interest groups, that "it's our way or no way; and if you get in the way of that - then you're a corrupt SOB."
Mike, remember the elementary school admonition - "sticks and stones..."? I'll bet the network providers do, and it's helped them keep their eye on the ball to ensure that a reasoned ruling comes out of the FCC.
The opposite would be corrupt - a closed process decided by a small handful of elite, "consumer advocates," impervious to reason, debate or the sunlight of opposing viewpoints. Until this summer, it looked like it was going in this direction. Now, thankfully, the process appears to be more inclusive - one which may result in a more fair outcome for all involved.
FCC & Free Press - Send Lawyers, Guns and Money to Regulate the Internet
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
So goes the FCC's stacked "706 Report" on broadband this week, which said that Americans aren't getting broadband in a "reasonable and timely basis," the first negative conclusion since the report's inception.
Using the standard developed in the National Broadband Plan (NBP) - which recommends "that every household in America have access to affordable broadband service offering actual download (i.e., to the customer) speeds of at least 4 Mbps and actual upload (i.e., from the customer) speeds of at least 1 Mbps" - the Commission determined that by this benchmark "broadband remains unavailable to approximately 14 to 24 million Americans." (Not that 14 - 24 million Americans don't have high-speed access, as has erroneously been reported.)
The FCC is building its war chest so that it can justify Lilliputian Internet regulation of network providers. Through a number of recent proceedings, statements and reports - e.g., the Open Internet NPRM, Cellular Competition Report, and "Third Way" NOI - the 706 Report traffics in the same meme: network providers just aren't doing their job, so they must be coerced or shamed into proper "compliance."
Not uncharacteristically, The Free Press heralded the new, rather dour (and now redundant) broadband assessment. Said the lugubrious, special interest lobbyists - "Now that the FCC has taken the first step of acknowledging America's broadband problem, we hope that it will advance policies to reverse this decline though the promotion of real competition and true consumer choice."
Camel Puts Nose under Tent with FCC "Wireless Model" for Internet Regulation
Julius Genachowski claims his "Third Way" approach to taking over the Internet looks a lot like the benign "wireless model" of regulation.
If it were true, that would be a good thing.
According to Genachowski:
In its approach to wireless communications, Congress mandated that the FCC subject wireless communications to the same Title II provisions generally applicable to telecommunications services while also directing that the FCC consider forbearing from the application of many of these provisions to the wireless marketplace. The Commission did significantly forbear, and the telecommunications industry has repeatedly and resoundingly lauded this approach as well-suited to an emerging technology and welcoming to investment and innovation. In short, the proposed approach is already tried and true.
Presumably, the "wireless model," if applied to the Internet, would spur growth and innovation. But I have a question. In the FCC's NOI, how does the wireless model of "light regulation" apply to, er, the wireless model?
I haven't quite figured out the circularity of that one yet.
Oh, well. Maybe I shouldn't waste my time trying. It seems more apparent than ever that for wireless andwireline broadband service it's not really about regulating "downward" - i.e., deregulating, as is the hallmark of the "wireless model" - but instead, regulating "upward," thus adding regulation.
Said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on May 6th, "The [Comcast] opinion therefore creates a serious problem that must be solved so that the Commission can implement important, commonsense broadband policies..."
I'll say. It's a problem, alright. Yet the chutzpah of the ensuing NOI process - in particular, the FCC asking whether its Net Neutrality workaround to reclassify the transmission element of broadband as a Title II service is worth doing / can be done - doesn't make it any better.
No Such Thing As Regulatory Predictability When It's Built on an Illusion of Authority
Tomorrow at the FCC's open meeting, it is expected that the Commission will release an NOI that will seek to implement Chairman Genachowski's controversial "Third Way." Ostensibly, his plan will try to chart a reasonable balance to promote an open Internet, while at the same time keeping it free from regulation. To arrive there, the Commission will likely propose to shear away the underlying transmission component of broadband telecommunications services from ISP / information services, and impose only a "handful" (like a dash of salt, I guess) of common carrier regulations on the former to keep the Internet open for applications, services, content and devices (as if it is not now already).
We do not know what's in the NOI, nor the process toward a rule or ruling. That said, it probably doesn't matter. Call me skeptical, but you don't need to be a mind reader or have a well connected lobbyist to understand that the fix is in. Not letting the facts get in the way of the situation, the Internet, through this NOI, is going to be regulated.
AT&T's New Wireless Pricing Plan - Does It Help in the Net Neutrality Debate?
The Deal's Chris Nolter believes AT&T's new wireless data-plan pricing - i.e., billing for tiers of data consumed instead of an all-you-can-eat approach - will affect not just the wireless world, but may also affect Net Neutrality regulations in the wireline space, too.
I'm not so sure.
Though tiered pricing for wired broadband has met with little success, Nolter suggests that if it can be done successfully in the capacity-stressed wireless context, then a positive precedent can be set for similar pricing for wireline broadband providers.
According to Nolter, "AT&T's wireless billing plan may help draw out the FCC on its thinking, and guide the arguments of the broadband providers in the net neutrality negotiations." He blithely adds, "If wired broadband providers can make the case that wireless tiered pricing works, they will have evidence to sway the FCC -- or ammunition to blast the agency's rulings in court."
Broadcasting & Cable reports that Ben Scott is leaving the radical outfit, Free Press, for the (hopefully not so radical) U.S. State Department. There, he will advise the State Department on "innovation policy."
Of all the times I have read or heard him speak, the one moment that sticks out in my mind most was an odd exchange five years ago with Senator Byron Dorgan on S. 2686 (regarding this), the 109th Congress' attempt to impose stultifying Net Neutrality mandates on network providers. I say odd only in that, if you don't know how hearings work, questions are scripted. Senators pitch softball questions to favorable witnesses to back up the truths asserted by the inquisitor. For the Democrats on hand, Scott was the "home team" during a hearing run by Republicans (they still had the Congress and could control the hearing agenda).
First Amendment Meddling Is Against the Public Interest
It's hard protecting the First Amendment. Especially so in an environment where government sees the limitation in actually the opposite way - a positive right. Something it can use to "nudge" speakers toward their "better angels," which, in their view, rests more comfortably with the "public interest."
Perhaps no organization knows how hard it is better than the ACLU. For almost 40 years, the Left's leading defender of the First Amendment broached no restrictions on perhaps the toughest of First Amendment issues (outside of their "Skokie moment") - campaign finance contributions.
Their policy stated:
Limitations on contributions or expenditures made by individuals or organizations for the purpose of advocating causes or candidates in the public forum impinge directly on freedom of speech and association. Their implementation poses serious dangers to the First Amendment. They should be opposed in candidate as well as referenda elections.