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Regulation

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 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.

Court Preview: Activists Expose Net Neutrality’s Biggest Legal Problems

Do not let the FCC’s likely unlawful means of broadband Internet regulation, i.e. Title II, distract you from the additional likelihood that two primary ends of supposed net neutrality “policy canon” i.e. bans against “paid prioritization” and “two-sided markets” (only users should pay), are also likely unlawful, even under Title II, sans new legislation.

A preview of oral arguments December 4 before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the legal challenge to the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order warrants more than the already well-covered standard comparison of both sides legal arguments over the legality of Title II.

In the 2014 Verizon v. FCC decision, that overturned much of the FCC’s net neutrality “effort to compel broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic the same regardless of source,” Judge David Tatel’s starting point was what does the FCC want to compel from others and does it have the legal authority and latitude to do so – sans new legislation.

(This analysis assumes the near obvious that Judge Tatel will lead and write this decision.)   

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?   

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.

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.    

Google’s Internet Association Hypocritically Begs Digital Protectionism

The juxtaposition of Google tacitly accusing the EU with “digital protectionism” and “discrimination” as the EU’s Digital Chief, Günther Oettinger, visits D.C. and Silicon Valley, while the Google-created Internet Association this week asks for U.S. protection from ISP “discrimination” in an appeals court brief in support of the FCC’s Open Internet order – exposes exceptional hypocrisy.

Antitrust and privacy regulators around the world weren’t born yesterday. They know Google and its online platform allies want it both ways – manipulating policy to advantage them and disadvantage their potential competitors.

The FCC’s Reasonable Unreasonableness? – A Satire

The FCC’s 218 page “brief” defending its Open Internet Order begs a big question.

How many times is it “reasonable” for any agency to assert that their core legal arguments are “reasonable” before they sound unreasonable? A few? Several? A dozen?

Of the 19 core statutory arguments in the summary defense of the FCC’s Open Internet order, TWELVE defend the order by declaring the FCC’s legal judgment was “reasonable.”

When arguing in court that the FCC has the statutory authority to common-carrier-regulate the Internet for the first time, shouldn’t the FCC be able to declare at least once in their summary defense: “the law says,” “precedent supports,” or at least “Congress intended?”  

Google as Global Government

Google, the Internet’s lone  superpower, increasingly governs its borderless virtual geography like a supranational virtual state, with the power to increasingly arbitrage actual nations’ sovereignty.

The FCC Built its Net Neutrality House on Legal Sand

The FCC’s latest legal brief defending its Open Internet Order, will represent the FCC’s “strongest possible” legal arguments for its Title II net neutrality case – a vainglorious legal fortress.

In reality, the FCC’s legal case is closer to a magnificent beach sandcastle.

Its downfall will be that its case is sand, on top of a sand foundation -- that won’t be able to weather the elements intact.

Consider some of the elements the FCC’s sandcastle legal case must withstand.

The term “net neutrality,” or direct Congressional authority to mandate the FCC’s concept of “net neutrality,” is not found in law.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths