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7 Huge Flaws in FCC’s Title II Privacy NPRM; NetCompetition Comments

Summary: It is rare for an FCC proceeding to be so wrong-headed and ill-conceived that it has seven huge flaws. Tellingly this one does.

 

  1. The FCC is trying to force-fit inherently-irreconcilable, telephone closed-ecosystem privacy rules into its opposite -- a broadband open-system Internet.

  2. This approach is so convoluted and confusing there is no way for an average consumer to understand what part of their privacy is or is not now protected by the FCC and what part is or is not protected by the FTC.

  3. For privacy, the FCC’s Title II decision has been perversely subtractive in eliminating all FTC broadband consumer privacy protections, during the year-plus period while the FCC tries to figure out what FCC consumer privacy protections will be.  

Google’s Omnipresent Tracking Much Harder to Leave than an ISP for Privacy

If you are online, you can’t escape Google’s myriad of ways it tracks you, but you can leave your ISP.

A famous 2009 Google Blog post boasted that: “Google is not the Hotel California — you can check out any time you like and you CAN, in fact, leave!

Since Google chose that apt metaphor, and boasted about how easy Google makes it to “check out” your private data and “leave” to a competitor, lets test if you can ever “in fact leave” Google-Eye’s pervasively invasive online surveillance -- from a privacy perspective.

But first, why is this point a relevant exercise for people who care about privacy at this particular point in time?

Right now in the U.S., the FCC is trying to justify differential treatment of ISPs and dominant edge platforms like Google in its Title II privacy proceeding and its AllVid set top box proceeding, by claiming that ISPs are more “sticky” and harder to leave than dominant edge platforms like Google.

Why Is the FCC Regulating the Biggest Privacy Risk Platforms the Least?

The epic flaw in the FCC’s Title II privacy NPRM is that it purports to best protect consumers’ private information by only regulating broadband providers’ use of that private information, while emphatically protecting dominant edge platforms from FCC privacy regulation when they use that same FCC-regulated private information indiscriminately without consumers’ meaningful knowledge or consent.

Yes you read that right.

Apparently the FCC thinks it is more important to protect dominant edge platforms from FCC privacy regulation, than it is to protect consumers’ private information.

The issue of privacy lays bare the FCC’s contorted and arbitrary logic of both its Title II cleave that only ISPs can be gatekeepers, and that the goal of net neutrality, protecting dominant edge platforms from ISP interference, is logical and appropriate to apply to privacy. If it was, that would perversely mean that the purpose of the FCC’s privacy rules should be to protect edge providers’ businesses, not consumers’ privacy.  

If you want to see a visual representation of this problem, please see the attached one-page graphic here.

NetCompetition Statement & Comments on FCC’s Anticompetitive AllVid NPRM

FCC’s AllVid NPRM Is Anticompetitive, Anticompetitive, Anticompetitive

 

WASHINGTON D.C. – The following quotes are based on NetCompetition’s submitted comments on the FCC’s AllVid NPRM and may be attributed to Scott Cleland, Chairman of NetCompetition:

“Think for a moment. Would anyone think it “pro-competitive” if a government agency mandated an “Unlock the Big Box Stores” ruling so that WalMart, Target, or Best Buy could no longer install effective doors, locks, security guards or anti-theft devices on their store perimeters to protect the value of their inventory, all so that Google, Amazon, or eBay could take it for free and then profit from selling it online?”

“The companies that comprise the ~$200b pay TV industry are the video programming functional equivalent of Big Box stores, and the FCC’s AllVid NPRM is the functional equivalent of a looters pardon.”

“Consider how the FCC’s “Unlock the Box” looters’ mantra is profoundly anticompetitive and destructive.

FCC Unequal ISP Privacy Policy Is Unequal Protection & Unequal Opportunity

The FCC’s just-passed, 3-2 unequal ISP privacy policy spotlights how badly the FCC has lost its way.

In prioritizing the equality rights of inanimate digital bits above the equal protection and equal opportunity rights the American people enjoy under our constitutional republic, the FCC is discriminating in favor of open cronyism over equal consumer protection and equal competitive opportunity.

Moody’s Investors Service has done everyone a service in exposing the FCC’s Title II reclassification and privacy policy for what it really is – arbitrary unequal treatment under the law.

When the FCC proposed these ISP privacy rules three weeks ago, Moody’s called the FCC’s proposal as it saw it in a Sector Comment March 14 entitled: “FCC’s broadband privacy proposal credit negative for linear TV and wireless providers – Over half a trillion in rated debt affected.” 

Netflix’ Deceptive Throttling Will Have Lots of Unexpected Repercussions

For the last several years that Netflix has relished the role of Grand Net Neutrality Inquisitor accusing ISPs of throttling Internet traffic in alleged violation of net neutrality, Netflix actually has been secretly throttling its Internet-leading traffic in ways that it never disclosed to either its users, the public, or to the FCC/FTC.

This incredible net neutrality revelation could have lots more repercussions than many appreciate at first glance.  

We learned of this extraordinary duplicity from a WSJ story this week where Netflix was forced to fess up “that for more than five years it has limited its video speeds to most wireless carriers across the globe, including AT&T and Verizon…  Netflix said it doesn’t limit its video quality at two carriers: T-Mobile and Sprint because “historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies.”     

Consider these under-appreciated repercussions.

FCC’s Apparent Arbitrary AllVid Proposal

Contradiction contradiction contradiction,” rather than “competition competition competition,” would be a more accurate description of what the FCC’s apparent arbitrary AllVid set-top-box proposal produces.

Contradiction #1: FCC rules cable competitive in 2015, but not in 2016.

In June 2015, the FCC ruledthat cable operators are subject to… "Competing Provider Effective Competition”” exempting cable from regulations, but in the spring of 2016, the FCC tentatively concludes that the ancillary cable set-top-box market is not competitive warranting maximal regulation.

The FCC’s New Subtractive Privacy Policy

Less is not more. That’s real “common sense.”

When one’s actions demonstrably create a worse rather than better outcome net-net, like the FCC’s new Title II ISP privacy policy does, others would justifiably consider it a mistake.

While the FCC obviously complied with President Obama’s call for regulating broadband as a Title II utility, the FCC obviously ignored President Obama’s 2011 call  for a 21st century regulatory system, where he said we are “making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or are just plain dumb.”

Let’s consider how the FCC’s new privacy policy fails this President Obama stated standard for “modern” regulation.

When the FCC reclassified broadband to be a Title II telephone utility last year in its Open Internet Order, the FCC trumpeted one of the great net benefits would be increased consumer privacy protection.

FCC’s Arbitrary Competition Policy -- Edge Platforms Can’t Be Gatekeepers?

Looking backwards makes it hard to see what’s right in front of you.

Looking backwards at 1934-era Title II telephone utility law, the FCC concluded in its 2015 Open Internet Order that only broadband providers could be “gatekeepers” warranting net neutrality regulation to “protect and promote the “virtuous cycle” that drives innovation and investment on the Internet.

That’s because the FCC is apparently oblivious to the very different 21st century communications “gatekeepers” right in front of them that command dramatically more potential “gatekeeper” market power than any broadband provider.

The FCC should listen to what one 21st century communications provider, which commands well over a billion social and communications users globally, has to say about the dominance of edge platforms.

Consumer Confusion over FCC’s Arbitrary Privacy Policymaking

What’s a consumer to think about what the FCC’s responsibility is for their privacy protection?

Let me try to explain to a consumer what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arbitrarily has done, and apparently intends to do, for consumer internet privacy protection going forward.    

By way of background, for the first decade of the Internet when consumers used dial-up technology, the FCC was responsible for protecting consumers’ private network information from commercial use without their permission.

For the second decade of the Internet when consumers came to use broadband technology, the FCC ceded its dial-up-Internet privacy protection authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which became responsible for consumer privacy protection from unfair and deceptive practices consistently across the entire American Internet ecosystem, regardless of who interacted with consumers’ private information.

Last spring, in order to assert legal authority to enforce net neutrality to protect edge providers from potential traffic discrimination in the FCC’s Open Internet Order, the FCC incidentally clawed back some privacy authority over Internet communications -- over the FTC’s strong objections.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths