FCC pulling the rug out from under the Administration's broadband policy?

Kudos to the Wall Street Journal today for their twin great editorials on net neutrality and the 700 MHz auction: "Reed Hundt's Spectrum Play" by the Jounal editorial writers and "Telecom Time Warp" by Robert Crandall and Hal Singer.

  • The Journal editorial accurately hits on the Google/Hundt cabal to rig the auction rules so they can win the Nation's most valuable spectrum at a deep discount.
    • Google is laughing all the way to the bank that they could sucker a Republican Chairman of the FCC to carry their water and stand heavily on the competitive scales to pick them as winner before the bidding commences.
    • It will be interesting to see how Chairman Martin "squares this circle" and explains why market participants should ever trust what he says going forward on competition and regulation given that up to now he has discussed no market failure or consumer problem that requires regulation to solve up to now.
  • My favorite point of many in Robert and Hal's great editorial is reminding everyone the outrageousness of the FCC mandating "unbundling" (a drastic action reserved for entrenched monopolies) when the wireless industry is so obviously competitive that the price of a wireless minute has fallen by 84% over the last decade!
  • Amazing! Chairman Martin apparently finds market failure when prices are plummeting, consumer choice has exploded, subscribership and usage has skyrocketed and investment boomed. Huh?
    • What's wrong with this picture? 
      • The only apparent explanation is that Chairman Martin now believes more in the regulatory hand of Big Government than the "invisible hand" of market forces.
    • Wireless is the single biggest competitive success story in communications!
      • And Mr. Martin's reward for all those market players that invested billions of dollars of risk capital to buildout the world's most competitive facilities-based wireless marketplace -- is heavy handed and unnecessary "separations" and unbundling monopoly regulation!

Bottomline:  The Bush Adminstration's sole policy goal in telecommunications has been to promote broadband investment and deployment to all Americans.

FCC Martin proposes corporate welfare for Google in 700 MHz auction

According to DowJones, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is proposing some of the net neutrality/open access regulation that Google requested for 22 of the 60 MHz of prime 700 MHz of spectrum to be auctioned off by the FCC in early 2008 for use in about 2010.

I have three points to make about Chairman Martin's reported net neutrality/open access proposal.

"Save The Internet" stoops to a new low of vacuousness

SaveTheInternet has a new video out that breathlessly claims that people only have until July 16th to tell the FCC to keep a "level playing field" in order to "save the Internet!"

  • This vacuous "eye-candy" video only says "the Internet is under attack in Washington" but says nothing about what "the attack" actually is, why anyone in their right mind would want to "attack the Internet," what the FCC is actually doing or deciding that needs their input by July 16th, or even why there is a July 16th deadline to act.
  • This video propoganda is a disturbingly accurate representation of the vacuousness of SaveTheInternet's whole net neutrality position and crusade.
    • It is all form and fear and precious little substance.
    • Its scary that they don't even try to inform or educate just incite.  
  • It also tells us a lot about what they think of the intelligence-level of average Americans and those on their mailing list -- they obviously just see them as lemings to scare and herd off a proverbial cliff.  
    • There is zero respect for people's intelligence in this video propaganda.
  • SaveTheInternet sees no need for facts, for information, for context, for balance, or hearing both sides -- just feed the masses the dumbest possible version of a scare message and shout that they have an urgent deadline to act!

This video is damning proof of how vacuous the net neutrality regulation movement has become. View it and weep.

Frontline wants competition through "zoning regulations?"

The Washington Post gave a lot of "free" ink to former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt today to push for his Frontline Wireless corporate welfare scheme. The article also provides a "bay window view" of Mr. Hundt's perverted view of "competition."

  • Mr. Hundt said: "We're asking the FCC to place conditions on the sale of the license, just like zoning on real estate."
  • Competition through zoning regulations!
  • This captures the essence of Mr Hundt's "market" views. He has always thought "competition" was much too important to be left to the marketplace.
    • Mr. Hundt's entire tenure as FCC Chairman was characterized with a deep distrust of free market forces and a fondness for writing very detailed regulations that heavily tilted the playing field to guarantee his desired outcomes.

Now that his company has $3b in capital and is prepared to raise up to $10b in the next five years, according to the Post, why is he so afraid to compete in the auction like everyone else?

New evidence of why Google so dominates search

The New York Times article today: "South Koreans Connect Through Search Engine" provides a huge window into what the real source of a search engine's market dominance is. (The article indicates that in South Korea, Naver.com is the leading search engine with 77% share, followed by South Korean company Daum.net with 10.8%, and Yahoo with 4.4%. Google's market share is 1.7% in South Korea.)

  • The South Korean example is a particularly helpful set of facts and insights to the FTC and Congress in their journey to understand Google's increasing search dominance and the potential anti-competitive effects of the Google-DoubleClick merger.

Specifically, what makes Google's 1.7% South Korean search market share different from its 90% share in Germany, Spain, 82% share in France, 75% share in the UK, and its 65% share in the US -- given that Google has been competing in the South Korean market since 2000?

Frontline's proposal is so disingenuous: Let me count the ways

Frontline's Reed Hundt is mounting a furious eleventh hour effort to finagle a backroom sweetheart deal for his company from the FCC, in the 700 MHz auction. He attacked the outstanding op ed in the Washington Post by Robert Hahn and Hal Singer in both the Post and in RCR.  Our former Big Government FCC Chairman, Mr. Hundt also apparently has lost his cool and perpsective in railing against the rollout of the new, innovative and already successful iPhone as somehow a market failure that only his company can cure.

My response to SaveTheInternet views on broadband

A core purpose of NetCompetition.org is to promote a debate of Net neutrality regulation on the merits. SaveTheInternet.com had a recent blog post "Painting over broadband failures with pretty pictures" that prompted me to comment on their blog -- which I have included below:

"If SaveTheInternet followers are truly "open" to diverse points of view that may be different from theirs, I recommend that you consider the mounting evidence that the US is in fact not falling behind but is actually a unique success in promoting facilities-based broadband competition in the world. Please see this link for the four best alternative views on this question:
http://www.precursorblog.com/node/451 .

The mounting evidence that the US is NOT falling behind on Broadband

Given the ongoing reporting of claims by net neutrality proponents that US broadband deployment is falling behind our international competitors (like the USA Today article in this link suggests), it is helpful to pull together some of the best analyses I have seen that debunk these claims by the OECD/CWA.  

For those who care to more substantively review the facts, evidence and merits of this very important public policy question, I highly recommend reading the following four sources linked in this blog, which all effectively and differently debunk the claim the US is falling behind on broadband:

No due diligence for Frontline Wireless? Special favors for special interests?

Congrats to Jeff Eisenach of Criterion Economics for his outstanding and incisive analysis "Due Diligence: Risk Factors in the Frontline Proposal."

  • Jeff Eisenach wonderfully brings clear thinking and common sense to a topic that sorely needs it.

The analysis exposes the Google-supported Frontline Wireless proposal for what it is... a "trust us" investment of effectively billions of dollars in forgone receipts due to the American taxpayer in a free market auction.

A concise summary of the excellent FTC report on Net Neutrality

I strongly recommend the FTC staff report on "Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy" to anyone wanting an objective, well-reasoned, fair, and comprehensive review of the facts and evidence of the net neutrality regulation debate.

I believe the most important sentence in the whole 170 page staff report, which covered an enormous and comprehensive public record on the subject, was on page 11 and again on page 160:

  •  "To date we are unaware of any siginificant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm from conduct by broadband providers." [Bold emphasis added]
  • I believe that's the best bottomline summary conclusion of the report.

The FTC report can be further well summarized by the following four sentences found on pages 10, 11, 155 and 11 respectively:

  • "We recommend policymakers proceed with caution in evaluating proposals to enact regulations in the area of broadband Internet access."
  • "Policymakers also should carefully consider the potentially adverse and unintended effects of regulation in the area of broadband Internet accesss before enacting any such regulation."
  • "Over time, competition produces the best results for consumers, providing them the lowest prices, the highest quality products and services, and the most choice."
  • "The FTC will continue to devote substantial resources to maintaining competition and protecting consumers in the area of broadband Internet access, using a variety of tools."

In closing, I was very impressed with the FTC staff's knowledge, sophistication, and fair representation of both sides' views.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths