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Competition

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 Zero Rating & Flexible Pricing Options Are Just & Reasonable to FCC

Always be careful what you ask for, because you might get it.

Net neutrality absolutists demanded Title II regulation of the Internet in hopes of getting the “strongest possible” net neutrality rules.

They imagined Title II to be their ultimate tool and power to enforce whatever they want to redefine net neutrality to be, whenever they want to redefine it: e.g. no paid-prioritization, no zero rating offerings, no usage-based pricing, etc.

Never mind the nettlesome fact, that net neutrality, as a term, principle or concept, can’t be found in U.S. law.

And never mind the nettlesome Title II reality, that decades of FCC/court precedents have established that economic price discrimination can be, and often is, legally just and reasonable.  

Net neutrality absolutists had to learn in Comcast v. FCC that the FCC could not enforce net neutrality without prior net neutrality rules.  

They learned the FCC did not have the legal authority to ban commercially reasonable market behaviors in Verizon v. FCC.

How Google-Android’s “Big MetaData” Collection Model Is Anticompetitive

The EC’s Antitrust Chief, Margrethe Vestager, is signaling that some Big Data may be anticompetitive. She recently told a conference: "These incredible powerful tools, like search engines and social media, are available for free. In many cases, that's because we as consumers have a new currency that we can use to pay for them – our data. …If a company's use of data is so bad for competition that it outweighs the benefits, we may have to step in to restore a level playing field."

The issue of whether privacy/data protection violations can be anti-competitive in Google’s case is now especially ripe.

The Net Neutrality Zero Rating Inquisition vs. the FCC

Historically accurate or not, the “Spanish Inquisition” is a well-known metaphor in literature for a group of intolerant elites that demanded orthodoxy from people, under threat of extreme consequences for heresy.

The twenty first century’s new technocratic elites, who politically made up net neutrality policy over the last fifteen years, are now sadly trying to dictate net neutrality orthodoxy on all the people of the world, whether or not they use the Internet.

These net neutrality absolutists are now accusing innovators of Internet “zero rating” plans, i.e. toll-free data plans, of net neutrality heresy, which must be punished severely with PR torture and banishment, in order to set an example for the masses of what happens to those who dare to challenge the church of net neutrality absolutism.

Recently in India, today’s modern day leaders of the Zero Rating Inquisition, Access Now activists, have demonized Facebook for the net neutrality heresy of offering a free stripped-down version of Internet access called “Free Basics” to the roughly billion Indians who can’t afford Internet access.

A rational person would say Facebook’s Free Basics offering is great and a very helpful innovation, because it’s so similar to the good of a library, school, or hospital that offers free services to the poor.

However, the net neutrality absolutists, who claim to be champions of free speech, are incensed that Facebook would empower a type of Internet free speech that is not pre-approved by them.

The FCC Isn’t Neutral toward Silicon Valley’s Dominant Edge Platforms

The world is watching and taking note of the FCC’s blatant competition double standard that totally favors America’s dominant edge platforms above most everyone and everything else.  

Consider an apt and illuminating comparison between the competition U.S. wireless broadband providers face versus the competition Silicon Valley’s edge platforms face.

The FCC’s Non-Neutral Internet Competition Policy

The FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order has an implicit blind-eye competition premise in that it reclassified the broadband provider half of Internet access, and not the “edge” platform provider half, as subject to FCC Title II common carriage regulation.

That is because the FCC focused only on broadband and concluded its level of competition required the strongest possible net neutrality regulation, while it turned a blind-eye toward “edge” platforms in uncritically assuming that “edge” platform networks were competitive and thus did not have to be neutral, open, or transparent.

The FCC’s Abjectly Illegitimate Premise for More Cable Regulation

There are troubling signals that the FCC is gearing up to further increase regulation of cable -- on top of the extra-legal new utility regulation the FCC already did in its 2015 Open Internet Order. 

What is profoundly troubling is the abject illegitimacy of their premise for more regulation of cable, i.e. the FCC’s new arbitrary and capricious definition of broadband that illegitimately redefined long-recognized, strong broadband competition -- out of existence with the stroke of a pen.

So what are the signals of more cable regulation? Two speeches from the FCC Chairman, one from the FCC General Counsel, another from the DOJ Antitrust Chief, a variety of Hill and edge-industry entreaties to regulate cable more via new MVPD or ALLVID regulatory proceedings, (but of course without regulating favored edge providers), and an explosion of new opposition to the proposed Charter-Time-Warner merger (by the exact same cast of characters whose opposition doomed the Comcast-Time-Warner merger).

This broad simultaneous level of focused regulatory chatter and organized activity is not coincidental, but highly-orchestrated and abjectly illegitimate.

Why is more cable regulation abjectly illegitimate?   

Why the FCC Approach to Special Access Regulation Is All Wrong

The FCC’s approach to special access is all wrong because they should be doing the exact opposite of what they are doing. The FCC should be price de-regulating special access, not signaling increased micro-regulation of special access rate terms and conditions.

Like an ostrich, the FCC has its head hidden in the sand on its approach to special access regulation, hoping that no one notices that the rest of its body is fully exposed.   

If the FCC can convince everyone to join them and put their heads in the sand too, and to look at special access regulation in the dark of self-defined isolation, and ignore the broader context of the competitive U.S. communications sector visible all around them, the FCC has a reasonable chance of sounding reasonable.

However, if anyone has their head out of the FCC’s regulatory sandpit and looks around for a moment at special access regulation in the broader context of the real world, more special access regulation looks ridiculous, just like the exposed back-end of an ostrich does when it hides its head in the sand.  

Will Government Spectrum Permissions Throttle 4G Evolution to 5G Wireless?

To try to justify mandating Title II utility regulation of broadband and the blocking of the Comcast-Time Warner acquisition, the Administration and FCC had to gerrymander broadband definitions to reach their political goal that wireless broadband service not be considered an official competitor to wireline broadband service.

Never mind the obvious: that the nearly three quarters of Americans who use a smartphone know  that one can functionally do most everything one wants on a mobile smartphone/tablet/laptop that one can do on a wireline connection. Also never mind: tens of millions of Americans who use only wireless broadband for all their Internet needs.   

To try to justify preempting State limitations of gigabit muni-broadband build-outs and its cheerleading for Government Owned Networks (GON) to politically and economically devalue commercial broadband competition, the government had to ensure that the wireless industry could not create four more very-high-speed competitors to wireline cable and telco broadband providers.

It did so by unilaterally changing Federal spectrum policy to starve and limit the amount of licensed and unlicensed spectrum available to wireless users long-term, because for smartphone users -- spectrum is speed. Limit spectrum, limit speed, to maintain the charade that wireless broadband does not compete with wireline broadband.

Top Ten Questions about FTC-Google-Android Antitrust Probe

The U.S. FTC has opened an antitrust probe of Google’s Android mobile operating system per Bloomberg reporting to investigate allegations that Google has anti-competitively limited competitive services on the Google-Android platform and extended its market power by favoring Google services over competitors’.

Top Ten Questions Raised by FTC’s Google-Android Probe     

Municipalities: Broadband Is Not a ‘Core Utility’

It is timely to fact check the Federal Government’s storyline that broadband is a ‘core utility,’ given a new White House report that directs municipalities that broadband is a “core utility… like water, sewer and electricity;” and given that a senior FCC official recently encouraged local municipalities at the NATOA conference to build their own local broadband infrastructure with the FCC’s backing now that the FCC has claimed the legal authority to preempt State laws limiting municipal broadband.    

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths