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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.

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.

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.

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.

Can a FCC Semi-Circle of Innovation be as Virtuous as a Full Circle?

Does the FCC’s concept of a “virtuous circle of innovation” mean fostering a full and true “circle of innovation,” of not only edge provider innovation, but also ISP innovations of zero-rating pricing plans that lower users’ bandwidth costs and better fund more broadband deployment?

Please consider how the FCC’s eventual treatment of the many ISP plans for zero-rating pricing innovations could impact ultimate appellate review of the FCC’s Open Internet Order.   

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Verizon v. FCC said that the FCC’s 2010 justification -- for imposing net neutrality rules via its Section 706 authority, for the purpose of promoting broadband deployment and the “virtuous circle of innovation” that fuels Internet growth -- was reasonable and justified by the evidence.  

Did FCC Respect Judge Tatel’s Stated Warnings against Authority Overreach?

Given that the USTelecom v. FCC appellate challenge of the FCC’s Open Internet Order is so important to net neutrality, the FCC’s authority over the Internet, and broadband providers’ future, and given that Judge Tatel’s thinking is so important to the outcome of this case, wouldn’t it be important to better understand Judge Tatel’s personal reasoned public explanation of how courts adjudicate cases just like USTelecom v. FCC?

Did FCC Read Judge Tatel Right in Pursuing Title II over Section 706?

The central overriding question in the USTelecom v. FCC case challenging the FCC’s Open Internet Order may be: did the FCC read Judge Tatel right in that he de facto guided the FCC to pursue Title II to create the most solid legal foundation for net neutrality? That has been the public legal mantra of the FCC and the net neutrality movement for well over a year.

In the oral arguments last Friday before the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals, what did Judge David Tatel potentially signal about the Title II over 706 legal premise of the FCC’s case?

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.)   

A Free and Open Internet that Can’t Be Allowed to Be Free and Open?

 

You know there are big problems with the so called “principle” of net neutrality when the New York Times writes an editorial headlined “Why Free Can Be a Problem on the Internet” and their editorial has nothing to do with protecting consumers’ privacy/safety or protecting content from piracy, but it is only about the potential problem of consumers enjoying free Internet content for marketing purposes!

What a scandal! Someone call the FCC! Innovative commerce is happening on the Internet!

Few things make net neutrality activists look sillier, more nonsensical and hypocritical than their knee-jerk somber opposition to innovation in broadband pricing and marketing via differential pricing, sponsored data, zero-rating plans or other creative and experimental pricing or marketing plans – that all naturally result from a highly competitive wireless market.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths