What’s Hot 6/25/2014

  • It Was 80 Years Ago… (Internet Innovation Alliance, 6/24/2014) This Internet Innovation Alliance blog post by Jamal Simmons is in light of the 80th anniversary of the Communications Act of 1934. Simmons asks, “Why on earth are certain voices clamoring for the FCC to start regulating our high-speed Internet access under rules that Congress designed for rotary telephones?” Simmons points out that “If the Internet were suddenly put under Title II, innovation would need to be pre-approved by the FCC.Instead of today’s ‘bottom up’ dynamism in which consumer demands drive change, the web would become hostage to the federal government’s timetable. The spirit and freedom to innovate would depend on Congressional and FCC action.” Furthermore, Simmons adds that while the DC Court of Appeals overturned parts of the 2010 Net Neutrality Order, “crucially, major ISPs continue to abide by the openness policies, which shows that they recognize the value of providing the freedom that Net users demand.”
  • FCC Readies Auction Pitch For Broadcasters (TVNewsCheck Blog, 6/23/14) The commission hires investment banker Greenhill & Co. to develop financial analysis and explain to broadcasters why participating in the auction might be in their interest. The FCC has hired an investment banking firm to help develop educational material to use to persuade broadcasters to participate in the agency’s incentive auction next year, clearing the way for the agency to beef up its station outreach efforts later this summer, according to an agency official. The banking firm tapped, according to the FCC official, is New York-based Greenhill & Co.
  • AT&T Pushes Rural Service Expansion in DirecTV Deal (Wall Street Journal Online, 06/23/2014) Telecom executives typically give rural phone service short shrift, unless they are trying to get a deal past regulators at which point expanding service to the underserved in America’s countryside becomes a top priority. On Tuesday, AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson will argue at a House Judiciary Committee hearing that its proposed $49 billion takeover of DirecTV will bring broadband options to at least 13 million people who currently have limited or no access to the service in rural areas. “This represents a multi-billion dollar commitment of capital that AT&T simply could not make without the ability to pair DirecTV’s video products and scale with our newly-expanded broadband services,” according to Mr. Stephenson’s prepared remarks as posted on the House’s web site. This argument is tailored to address long-standing concerns from lawmakers and regulators about poor connections and speeds in rural areas. AT&T isn’t alone in using rural investment to win over Washington. Sprint Corp. has been stepping up its rural reach as Chairman Masayoshi Son seeks to smooth the path for a merger with T-Mobile USA Inc. AT&T says the DirecTV deal will allow it to set up so-called “fixed wireless” connections for the 13 million rural households.
  • #CommActUpdate: Competition should not be defined and regulated within a “siloed” approach (Verizon Policy Blog, 06/23/2014) If there’s one fact that communications policy experts can agree on, it’s this: the communications landscape has changed dramatically since Congress last visited the Communications Act in 1996. The evolution in technology, computation, software and competition has been accompanied by a seismic shift in consumer preferences. Whereas the Communications Act has its roots in 19th-century railroad regulation and was designed for the “Ma Bell” monopoly era, today’s landscape looks decidedly different. The Communications Act currently consists of several titles that define and govern specified sectors of the communications space in different ways, as if those sectors exist separately – without overlap – and warrant different treatment. Twenty years ago, this may have been the case, but today it is not. Unlike their more heavily regulated counterparts, most of these competitors (Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple) have not been subject to the same legacy regulatory regime, which often requires permission to introduce new services and features or to move away from others that fail to meet consumer demands. This is not to suggest that the same type of prescriptive regulation that traditionally was applied to legacy voice providers now should apply to newer competitors and services from the other “silos.” Just the opposite: consumers will benefit most if Congress adopts a new policy framework that more accurately reflects the nature of competition in today’s communications marketplace and provides all companies in the communication and Internet ecosystem with the flexibility necessary to encourage innovation and investment, while simultaneously protecting consumer interests. Dismantling the regulatory “silos” is the first step toward a modern communications policy framework that enables service providers to give their customers more of everything.
  • Stephenson: DirecTV Helps Us Challenge Cable Dominance (Broadcasting & Cable Blog, 6/23/14) AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson will tell Congress this week that AT&T needs to become bigger to compete in the video space with cable operators. “The cable companies already dominate both broadband and video,” he says in prepared testimony for hearings on June 24 in the House and Senate about AT&T’s proposed $48.5 billion purchase of DirecTV. “This transaction gives AT&T the combination of capabilities to be a more effective competitor to cable and to anticipate and lead in the fast-changing world of communications and entertainment.”
  • Antitrust vs. Net Neutrality: Consumer Welfare in Focus (TechPolicyDaily, 6/23/2014) Last Friday, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimonies on “Net Neutrality: Is Antitrust More Effective than Regulation in Protecting Consumers and Innovation?” I, however, would characterize the question a la a Seinfeld episode (paraphrasing): “Are you just saying you want to have Internet freedom for the little guy or do you really want to have Internet freedom for the little guy?”