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FCC Privacy Regulation Claims: “Believe it or not!”

With due credit to "Ripley's Believe it or Not!®,"so much odd and bizarre is happening at the FCC in the "name" of “privacy” that the topic calls for its own collection of: "Believe it or Not!®" oddities.

Title II Privacy Proposed Rules

The FCC claims consumer privacy is important, but preempted existing FTC privacy regulation of broadband providers before they had any replacement privacy protections in place, so U.S. broadband consumers have been left without any federal privacy protection for over a year! 

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.  

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.

The Obvious Google-Android Antitrust Case the DOJ & FTC Are Ignoring

Awkward.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager -- who formally has charged Google with abusing its search monopoly, and who also is formally investigating Google’s alleged contractual tying of its monopoly search app to create a monopoly Android operating system -- speaks Friday at the ABA antitrust spring meeting in D.C. on a panel with DOJ antitrust chief William Baer and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, at the awkward juncture when the EU is escalating its antitrust prosecution of Google while America’s DOJ and FTC apparently are ignoring the obvious antitrust case they know they have against Google.

In a nutshell, the obvious antitrust case against Google is this: the DOJ and FTC have long established Google is a monopoly demanding antitrust vigilance; U.S v. Microsoft settled that a licensed OS market definition excluding Apple is reasonable and that tying a monopoly OS to a strategic app harms consumers and innovation; Google’s contractual tying of its monopoly search to a nascent Android OS is a mirror image of what DOJ already proved monopolistic in U.S. v. Microsoft; Google apparently has monopolized mobile search and search advertising and prompted its only competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing, to give up seriously competing with Google; and now the potential harms to consumers and innovation are escalating as Google is attempting to extend its Android mobile OS monopoly economy-wide to monopolize the Internet of Things.

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.” 

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.

Can “Bright Line” FCC Title II Discrimination Bans Be Just and Reasonable?

Net neutrality absolutists are overreaching yet again in their push for a practical FCC ban of ISP zero rating offers under the FCC’s case-by-case “General Conduct Standard” review, by claiming violations of the “bright-line rules” in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

The problem here is that net neutrality absolutists, in exploiting the political pejorative power of the word ‘discrimination,’ have politically oversold their Title II net neutrality policy as “bright-line” ‘non-discrimination’ bans, implying no discrimination allowed, when Title II actually only bans “unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”

This is a distinction here with a huge difference; and it apparently is giving the net neutrality absolutists fits. They want to imagine that Title II prohibits their absolutist ‘no discrimination’ frame when it clearly does not.

They want to find a technical “gotcha” in every zero-rating or sponsored data offering, no matter how unreasonable their conclusion, so they can politically ask it be banned by the FCC under their concept of what a ‘no discrimination’ principle should be.

FCC’s AllVid Proposal Is Really The Great Google Ad Grab

While the PR cover story of the FCC’s AllVid proposal may be about more consumer choice and competition to reduce the cost of cable set-top boxes, don’t be fooled.

In announcing it, the FCC Chairman admits there’s already consumer choice aplenty: “American consumers enjoy unprecedented choice in how they view entertainment, news and sports programming. You can pretty much watch what you want, where you want, when you want.”

And the AllVid proposal is not about saving consumers money.

If it were, the FCC would not be shunning the obvious, best and cheapest solution of replacing the need for a set-top box entirely, by modernly and naturally transitioning them to the sector norm of easily-downloadable, cheap/free apps.

Why FCC Title II Telephone Privacy Rules Can’t Work with an Open Internet

Square peg meet round hole.

The FCC is poised to try and force-fit inherently-irreconcilable, telephone closed-ecosystem privacy rules into a broadband open-system Internet. Good luck with that.

Expect the FCC to have fits trying to successfully craft workable, non-arbitrary, and legally-sustainable Title II broadband privacy rules in the year ahead.

It is a problem of the FCC’s own making.

In arbitrarily applying Title II telecommunications rules to only the ISP half of Internet communications, while politically exempting the entire edge half of Internet communications in its Open Internet order, the FCC has ensured that information that was proprietary and controllable in the closed telephone world becomes public and uncontrollable in the open Internet world.

Horses meet open barn door.

Net neutrality activists wrongly imagined that Title II was all-purpose-regulatory-authority to impose “the strongest possible” Open Internet rules they wanted, like bans on paid prioritization, zero rating or usage based pricing, despite decades of Title II and court precedents that determine many types of economic price discrimination and pricing flexibility to be just and reasonable.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths