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Appeals Court Blasts Big Deregulatory Hole between FCC & FTC Jurisdictions

FCC and FTC meet the law of unintended consequences.

A Ninth Circuit Court decision overturned an FTC enforcement action against AT&T for “throttling” broadband data speeds by definitively ruling that the FTC did not have any legal jurisdiction over AT&T (and other common carriers) because of the explicit common carrier exemption in the FTC’s core Section 5 legal authority.

Will FCC Allow Google to become the Fox that Guards its AllVid Henhouse?

A fox should not be allowed to guard a henhouse, unless the farmer wants the fox to eat all the hens.

Neither should the world’s fiercest corporate opponent of copyright, Google, be allowed to be the FCC’s technological guard of $200b worth of annual video programming revenues, in the FCC’s AllVid Set-Top Box rulemaking, unless the FCC wants Google-YouTube and others to be able to pirate the nation’s video-programming property without paying for it.

Will FCC Allow Competition to Google’s & Facebook’s Advertising Monopolies?

Why is the FCC protecting and facilitating online advertising monopolies?

How can the FCC square its “competition, competition, competition” PR mantra with its regulatory plans for applying new anticompetitive privacy rules only on ISPs and not the “edge” online advertising monopolies -- Google and Facebook?

Simply as it relates to online advertising, the FCC’s new proposed Title II privacy rules would require ISPs with existing advertising businesses, or those planning to enter, compete, and grow in the online advertising market, to be subject to a new and special, privacy opt-in, consumer-consent framework where they alone in the marketplace would have to secure users’ advanced permission to use a majority of their data for advertising purposes.  

Why Did Google & Facebook Stop Competing With Each Other?

The evidence shows that Google & Facebook -- by far the world’s most dominant Internet gatekeepers – are not an Internet advertising “duopoly,” but worse, two separate Internet advertising monopoly platforms, one in search advertising and another in social media advertising.

That’s because search and social media advertising are not competitive substitutes for each other, but are proving to be synergistic advertising complements to each other in company marketing campaigns, because generally search advertising excels at lead generation and local business visibility while social media advertising generally excels at building brand awareness and interactivity with consumers.

Tellingly, after beginning to directly compete in social in 2011 and in search in 2013, Google and Facebook both abruptly, coincidentally, and effectively stopped competing directly with each other in both the search and social media markets in 2014.

Apparently, they either jointly agreed in 2014 to divide up the marketplace and no longer directly compete with each other to maximize their exceptional mobile growth and profitability; or they concluded independently -- from their initial directly competitive forays into the other’s core markets -- that the other commanded unbeatable monopoly network effects, so not directly competing with each other would maximize their exceptional mobile growth and profitability.     

America’s FCC-FTC Privacy Divide

[Note: This was submitted to the FCC for Reply Comments on the Title II Privacy NPRM]

The FCC’s Open Internet order and proposed Title II privacy rules divided what was unified.

For privacy, it broke what was working. Confused what was clear. Complicated what was simple. Unprotected what they sought to protect. Created more costs than benefits.

Since the Internet’s beginning the FTC has had privacy authority over information services.

For the decade since the FCC classified cable, wireless, and DSL broadband as an information service, and for the entire smartphone era where consumers became familiar with online privacy issues and regulation, the FTC was the sole unified regulator for protecting American consumers’ privacy.

In a 2014 filing to the FCC, the FTC explained why the FTC was better positioned to protect consumer privacy and data security than the FCC, because the FTC had national direct statutory authority to protect all consumers under: Section 5 -- that proscribes “deceptive” or “unfair” business practices; the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, (COPPA).

Did Judge Tatel Tattle on Title II Trouble with Chevron Deference for FCC?

The likelihood improved this week, that the Supreme Court could have an interest in hearing an appeal of the recent USTelecom v. FCC court decision that granted the FCC complete Chevron deference to uphold the FCC’s Title II reclassification of ISPs as utilities. That’s because a new unanimous 8-0 Supreme Court decision suggests that the USTelecom Court may have granted the FCC too much legal Chevron deference on its Title II reclassification. (A hat tip to Gus Hurwitz’ tweet for flagging the Title II relevance of this SCOTUS case and his great legal analysis is here.)    

New App-Based AllVid Proposal Smokes-out Google & Public Knowledge’s Agenda

Are the FCC’s set-top-box proposed rules really about unlocking the set-top-box to competition or are they really about advancing Google and Public Knowledge’s real agenda – forced unlocking of the licensing and copyright protections of the underlying video programming that generates ~$200b in annual revenues?

In response to the FCC Chairman’s request for an alternative approach to the FCC’s current AllVid proposed rules, the Pay TV coalition has proposed an app-based solution that solves all of the FCC’s publicly-stated problems with cable set-top boxes.

Top Takeaways from Appeals Court Upholding FCC Title II Internet Order

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 majority decision to completely uphold the FCC Open Internet Order on every single one of the ~couple dozen argued points, after the court had twice before not granted the FCC complete deference in overturning the FCC on these matters, surprised most everyone given the number and seriousness of the legal challenges put forth, and the selective skepticism the judges signaled at oral arguments.

Given that this total support of the FCC was not anticipated, what does this potentially seminal court precedent mean practically?

For now, the FCC effectively enjoys complete deference from this Court on Open Internet issues.

The majority dismissed every single one of the petitioners’ best legal, process, and constitutional challenges and proactively cauterized them with court assertions that the FCC’s actions were reasonable, supported by the evidence, and compliant with the APA, or that the challenges were unpersuasive.

FCC’s Competition Policy Blind Spot for Dominant “Edge” Incumbents - GAFA

The evidence increasingly proves that Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, companies collectively known as “GAFA,” are the dominant consumer-technology, “edge” platforms/incumbents in their respective communication sector markets of: information, smartphones, social media, and ecommerce.

The evidence below shows Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon to clearly be the emerging dominant communications incumbents of the 21st century communications sector ecosystem and that an apparent FCC assumption that “edge” companies cannot be a competition problem is both naïve and erroneous.   

Despite the FCC’s “competition, competition, competition” policy mantra, this GAFA dominance reality has not kept the FCC from slavishly favoring the dominant GAFA incumbents, as “insurgent” upstarts deserving of special FCC treatment and protection, in all of the FCC’s current major communications policy revamps it is making without Congress: i.e. its Title II Open Internet Order; its Title II ISP-only privacy rules; its AllVid set-top box rules; and its implicit wireless policy of favoring spectrum sharing and unlicensed spectrum over spectrum auctions and licensing. 

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! 

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths