You are here

Net Neutrality

Broadband pricing is naturally evolving to usage tiers (Part 7 in a series)

 

Exploding overall broadband usage, combined with increasingly varied usage between average users and heaviest users, is naturally evolving the broadband market towards the flexibility of tiered usage-pricing over time.

Yesterday, Verizon Wireless indicated that it will begin to move its wireless data users away from unlimited data plans for single users that upgrade to its 4G LTE wireless broadband network, towards more-shared, tiered usage-pricing data plans, where with the potential added-price comes the added-flexibility of combining the usage of multiple devices of a family or a small business.

Today Comcast announced a transition from its current very-high, but static 250G monthly data usage cap, to a more flexible and expandable 300G monthly usage threshold, where a user would then have the option of buying additional usage above 300G -- at the likely cost of about an additional $10 per additional 50G used in a month. So in addition to choice of broadband speeds, the heaviest-use Comcast consumers will now also be able to choose how much more capacity they want to use/buy as well.

Both companies, which invest billions of dollars in their broadband infrastructures, are naturally evolving their pricing and competitive business offerings over time to address the exploding high-bandwidth usage of smart phones and tablets, market segments that did not even exist five years ago.

Google Has No Free Speech Right to Break the Law

Google's latest claimed antitrust get-out-of-jail-free-card is that Google is effectively immune from antitrust prosecution because it has a constitutional free speech right to free speech to rank and present its search results any way it wants, per a new Google-sponsored white paper by UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh. This effort is much more of a political argument and PR wish than a legal or antitrust argument, because neither the right to free speech nor any other right in the Constitution's Bill of Rights confers immunity from the rule of law foundation on which the rest of the U.S. Constitution rests. There are many reasons to be skeptical of Google's blanket claims of antitrust immunity via its free speech rights.

First, anybody that considers the many forms of illegal speech that are unprotected by the First Amendment: perjury, libel, slander, misrepresentation, lying under oath, fraud, deceptive practices, falsifying documents, collusion, conspiracy, impersonating a police officer, stealing, vandalism, graffiti, inciting a riot, etc., will take Google's imagined blanket immunity from antitrust laws on free speech grounds with a grain of salt. Google exaggerates its "free speech" rights to protection from antitrust, just like it exaggerates its "fair use" rights to take others' property without permission.

NetCompetition Release: Alliance for Broadband Competition Really Seeks Broadband Regulation

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 14, 2012

Contact: Scott Cleland 703-217-2407

Alliance for Broadband Competition Really Seeks Broadband Regulation

Verizon-Cable spectrum transaction promotes competition & the public interest

WASHINGTON D.C. – In response to the new "Alliance for Broadband Competition" opposition to the Verizon-Cable spectrum transaction, the following quotes may be attributed to Scott Cleland, Chairman of NetCompetition.org:

EU's regulated mobile prices much higher than US competitive mobile prices

The EU's latest round of mobile price regulation provides a golden opportunity to show how market competition produces much better results for consumers than government price regulation. Ironically, the European Parliament voted this week to lower mobile roaming charges by mid-2014 to levels that will still be much higher than America's competitive wireless market prices are today.

Per New York Times reports, the EU mandated price for making a roaming mobile voice call will be reset from 35 cents a minute today to 19 cents a minute by mid-2014, and the price for receiving a roaming mobile voice call will be reset from 11 cents a minute today to 5 cents by mid-2014. Putting this in perspective, Recon Analytics' research shows that Americans pay 4.9 cents a minute vs. 16.7 cents a minute for Europeans -- ~70% less; and because of these dramatically lower American wireless prices, Americans consumers use more than twice as much wireless as Europeans, 875 minutes of use per month vs. 418 minutes for Europeans. Simply, the EU's ~50% mandated price reductions will still have European consumers paying much more for mobile usage even if one incorrectly were to assume that competition won't further lower the market price for American consumers like it has every year.

Netflix' Net Neutrality Corporate Welfare Plan (Part 10 of a Series)

Apparently Netflix is angling to become Silicon Valley's king of corporate welfare. We learn from a New York Times economics column advocating for an Internet industrial policy that "Netflix is trying to build a coalition of businesses to make the case for… net neutrality." And that the "online video powerhouse Netflix started a political action committee to complement a budding lobbying effort in support of the idea that all content must be allowed to travel through the Internet on equal terms" -- translation: always at no cost to Netflix.

But Netflix isn't in need of public assistance; it is America's video subscription leader with 23 million subscribers. Netflix has $3.3b in annual revenues, $1.2b in gross profits, $800m in cash, a 34% return on equity, and a market valuation multiple over twice the market's. And Netflix flexed its exceptional pricing power last year in raising its prices 60% without losing many subscribers.

Verizon-Cable Opponents Goading FCC to Overreach its Authority Again -- Part 9 of Series

Opponents urging the FCC to block the Verizon-Cable secondary market spectrum transaction are pushing the FCC into dangerous institutional territory, effectively goading it to: overreach its statutory authority; ignore FCC precedent, evidence, and facts; and game its own spectrum-screen process. The same FreePress radical fringe -- that goaded the FCC to flout the D.C. Appeals Court decision and pass the Open Internet Order and Data-Roaming Order -- are at it again.

The FreePress radical fringe who care not for the rule of law, are again goading the FCC to trump up some new public interest rationale and statutory theory to allow the FCC to transmogrify its limited public interest authority into unbounded authority that disregards the law, FCC precedent, or the facts. This radical manipulation of the process may be good for forwarding FreePress' anti-business, Internet commons goals, but it is not good for the institution of the FCC, which is a creature of Congress and subject to the rule of law. And nor is it good for the American public.

"Leaf" Vision & Broadband Usage Caps (Part 6 in a Series)

Near hysterical opponents of broadband data usage caps need to breathe slowly, drop their magnifying glass, look up and take in the big world all around them. They are not just missing the forest for the trees, they are missing the leaves, stems, branches, trees, forest and sky, because they can't take their magnifying glass off of the leaf with which they are myopically obsessed.

Broadband data usage caps are a very small, normal, and essential part of a healthy and economically-sustainable Internet ecosystem. Pricing is the central mechanism for any marketplace to balance supply and demand and to create economic incentives and disincentives for behavior that can drive costs. There is nothing wrong with pricing caps, tiers, and other pricing mechanisms that are used to manage networks, avoid network congestion, achieve a return on investment, manage a business model, differentiate a business, and/or earn a profit.

Consumer Groups' Advocacy Hypocrisy

Consumer groups by definition are supposed to be protecting consumers' interests -- not be pushing a special interest political agenda under the guise of the "public interest." Let's spotlight a recent and blatant hypocrisy whereby consumer groups near-completely ignored an instance of obvious widespread consumer harm (the FCC's proposed fine of Google for obstructing its Street View wiretapping investigation), while in another contemporaneous issue, consumer groups gang-pummeled a non-issue to push a political Internet commons agenda (strongly objecting to Comcast's new market offering where XBox usage does not apply to a user's 250 Gig monthly data cap.)

Google Street View Wiretapping: Why is Google obstructing a Federal wiretapping investigation affecting the privacy of literally tens of millions of American households' -- not a consumer protection issue? How come consumer groups routinely and loudly call for FCC investigations of broadband companies' legal marketplace actions, but are silent on the obvious obstruction of a Federal investigation into Google allegedly being involved in potentially the largest wiretapping and mass invasion of citizens' privacy by a corporation in U.S. history? How is it in consumers' interest for the government to not be able to determine if Google actually violated Federal law or not?

AAI's Analysis of Verizon-Cable Is Industrial Policy Not Antitrust

Reading through The American Antitrust Institute's white paper on Verizon-Cable, it is striking how little analysis is relevant to antitrust/market-competition and how it is basically a thinly-veiled tacit pitch for the DOJ and the FCC to pursue an aggressive industrial policy for the wireless industry.

The white paper presumes that because the DOJ blocked the AT&T/T-Mobile merger to preserve T-Mobile as a disruptive fourth wireless competitor, and because T-Mobile now claims it needs more spectrum, that the government should intervene somehow to effectively redirect the spectrum to T-Mobile and away from Verizon.

The huge flaw in the AAI's analysis is its central presumption, which is contrary to longstanding spectrum auction law, that the government, not market forces, should allocate spectrum. The analysis ignores that the law of the land allocates spectrum via property rights and auctions enabling the spectrum to find the party that most economically values it and has the most economic incentive to put it to productive use. The AAI's analysis appears biased against existing law in assuming that the only or primary reason that the largest wireless providers would want more spectrum would be to anti-competitively keep it from its smaller competitors, and not the obvious and real reason that they want to provide better, faster, more reliable mobile broadband service to more people in more of the country to make more money.

Objecting to Obsolete Obligations

The Washington Post's lead story today, "Landline Rules Frustrate Telecoms," puts a needed spotlight on obsolete communications law that: falsely assumes the telecom marketplace is still a monopoly with no consumer choice; and still mandates telecom companies subsidize below-cost, copper-line telephone service to households as if it were still a government-sanctioned monopoly.

A bit of history is warranted here. This century-old political arrangement -- the 1913 Kingsbury Commitment between the Federal Government and AT&T -- effectively established a government-sanctioned monopoly in return for universal telephone service to all Americans and utility rate of return regulation. In 1996, Congress reformed Federal communications policy by ending monopoly and promoting competition. Today, despite copper telephone networks losing half of their customer base to cable, wireless, VoIP, broadband and other Internet competitors (and losing most of their most profitable landline customers) many legacy telecom legal requirements, like subsidized below-cost telephone service, live on despite being obsolete. This means that in today's fiercely competitive voice service marketplace, mandating that only one provider must provide subsidized below-cost, copper-line service to potentially millions of households, is a classic un-funded mandate and a hidden, unfair, investment-distorting business tax on only one competitor.

Pages

Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths