I was gratified by the excellent attendance at the Free State Foundation’s program last Friday titled, “Thinking the Unthinkable: Imposing the ‘Utility Model’ on Internet Providers.” If you weren’t there, you missed what was a very important event – one that, in light of the substantive discussions that occurred, likely will play an important role going forward in the debate over the Federal Communications Commission’s consideration of the imposition of new net neutrality mandates.
Unless you only get your news via the Jurassic Press – or you are a government school victim who as a result doesn’t pay attention to anything at all – you are now intimately familiar with the on-camera stylings of Jonathan Gruber.
On September 25, the Mercatus Center, a research and outreach organization that promotes market-oriented solutions from George Mason University, did a presentation on net neutrality. The speaker, research fellow in the technology policy program Brent Skorup, gave a wide overview of the net neutrality subject. Skorup discussed, among other things, how the Internet works, the working definition of net neutrality, exceptions to the rule, and the options the FCC is exploring.
Net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem. Over the last decade, the FCC has alleged only a few potential net neutrality problems, and in each of these few cases, the FCC was able to satisfactorily resolve them without Title II authority.
A little-noticed article in the Wall Street Journal over Labor Day Weekend concerning the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger caught my eye, not only because the article obviously concerns an important matter of communications policy, but also because it raises questions regarding a matter of proper administrative agency process.
Rep. Henry Waxman, Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,wrote the FCC to propose that the FCC, in its pending Open Internet order remand, “reclassif[y] broadband providers as telecommunications services and then using the modern [Title I] authority of section 706 to set bright-line rules to prevent blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.”
The FTC implicitly laid down an important jurisdictional, political, and public marker against FCC reclassification of broadband as a utility, in its recent FCC filing in the FCC’s Section 706 inquiry proceeding.
There are two core reasons the FCC should not try to preempt State muni-broadband laws.
1. The Supreme Court has already indicated it would be unconstitutional.
2. It would be anti-competitive, the opposite of the FCC’s statutory purpose and legal mandate.
Pro-regulation interests often resort to highly misleading arguments to advance their cause. Fortunately that kind of deception ultimately exposes the weakness of their underlying argument and public policy position.
The myriad executive branch Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Boards have been in omni-directional fashion vastly exceeding their authority – doing things that are clearly the Constitutional purview of (amongst other others) the legislative and judicial branches.
The FCC has asserted a foundational regulatory premise that warrants rebuttal and disproving, given that the FCC is considering if Internet access, and Internet backbone peering, should be regulated like a utility under Title II telephone common carrier regulation.
Does Netflix have any responsibility to help provide its users the streaming service that they paid Netflix for by connecting with ISPs in the high quality manner that most all other content delivery networks do? In other words, why is Netflix such an outlier here?
If Netflix’ position on net neutrality was justified on the merits, why does Netflix need to say so many deceptive things that are demonstrably untrue, in order to justify its case for its version of net neutrality?
The all-encompassing government-Internet-power-grab that is Network Neutrality rarely gets outside-the-Tech-World media attention. But Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in Democrat Party-line fashion to begin its process of imposing it. This was a big enough deal that it garnered over-the-weekend Big Media coverage from ABC (with a Bloomberg assist) and PBS (with a Washington Post assist).
Given the avalanche of misinformation and manufactured hysteria by net neutrality proponents over the FCC’s proposed rulemaking to make the FCC’s Open Internet Order comply with the Appeals Court Verizon v. FCC decision, AT&T’s FCC filing here (and below) is a welcome and much-needed total debunking of the call for Title II reclassification of broadband.
Aside from whether you think the proposed Comcast – Time Warner Cable merger ultimately should be approved or not, it’s hard to suggest that Comcast’s announcement that it will divest 3.9 million subscribers does not advance the company’s pro-merger case by alleviating claimed competitive concerns. Without getting into the complexities of the proposed three-party subscriber divestiture transactions involving Comcast, TWC, and Charter Communications, the end result is that, as Comcast promised when the merger was announced in February, Comcast’s total number of subscribers, post-merger, will be less than 30% of the total number of U. S. cable subscribers.