What’s Hot List 3/4/16

Cable And Telcos Compete For Business Customers (Forbes 3/2)

If the title seems obvious to you, it’s because it is obvious to unbiased observers. In its most recent comments in the FCC ngIf: ticker ’s proceeding to regulate business communications services (also known as “special access”), the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) observed: It “should be clear from the extensive record” that cable operators play a significant and growing role as competitors in the special access market. Though the FCC won’t let the public see its data on business communications services, NCTA notes the “data demonstrate there are two or more facilities-based providers almost everywhere there is demand for special access service.”

For Outmoded Set-Top Boxes, The FCC Doubles Down On Failure (Forbes 3/1)

This will come as a big surprise to the Federal Communications Commission, but I’ve just completed the third major upgrade of my Pay TV equipment in the last decade.

In fact, I’ve been running a kind of natural competitive experiment, using both rented equipment from Comcast, my cable provider, as well as TiVo DVRs that I own. I’ve had the TiVos since 2001, and have replaced them, along with the rented equipment, when my provider first switched to all-digital programming, and then again to take advantage of HD content. The most recent upgrade accommodates the latest video protocol, MPEG-4, which delivers improvements in both functionality and efficiency.

The FCC’s lack of respect for due process (The Hill 3/2)

Frustrated with one abuse of due process after another at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has made it his personal mission to pass legislation to improve the FCC’s practice and procedures. Despite these laudable efforts, Walden unfortunately misses the bigger picture: What’s in a law only matters to those who have some concern for the law, and current FCC leadership — including foremost the former lobbyist, Chairman Tom Wheeler — appear to have little if any respect for the law. As policy is personnel, therefore, an administrative agency with little regard for the binding precepts of both the Communications Act and the Administrative Procedure Act will also have little if any regard for any new process reform legislation. 

FCC members spar over net neutrality at hearing (The Hill 3/2)

A disagreement between Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler and GOP Commissioner Ajit Pai over net neutrality become heated during a congressional hearing Wednesday.

A question from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) over whether the rules approved a year ago had hurt investments in Internet networks sparked a testy exchange.

Pai claimed that investment slowed down in 2015 for major broadband providers and smaller ISPs.

“I do not think it is getting out of the way of innovation and investment,” he said.

But Wheeler directly contested that claim.

“With all due respect to my colleague, what he has just portrayed as facts are not,” Wheeler responded.

FCC Caved to White House on Net Neutrality, Senators Say (Fortune 3/1)

After a year of Net Neutrality, the ruling that declared Internet service providers have to treat all web pages equally, Republicans in the Senate are arguing the Federal Communications Commission’s decision was unfairly influenced by pressure from President Obama.

In a report out from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Monday, the senators argue that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler caved to pressure from the White House when choosing to regulate the Internet as a public utility.

Senate Panel Slams ‘Net Neutrality’ Ruling (Wall Street Journal 2/29)

WASHINGTON—Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, buckled to White House pressure in deciding to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility in last year’s “net neutrality” rules, a new report from Republicans on a key Senate panel asserts.

The report concludes the FCC’s actions were largely driven by a Nov. 10, 2014, public statement from President Barack Obama urging the agency to reclassify broadband as a common carrier and implement the strongest possible net neutrality rules—the principle that Internet service providers treat all content equally.

The FCC Wants to Make Cord-Cutting as Painless as Possible (Wired 2/29)

IT’S GETTING EASIER to cut the cord, thanks to the rise of Internet video services like Hulu, HBO Go, Netlix, and Sling TV. But there’s still some stuff you just can’t find online, and the Federal Communications Commission wants to know why.

There’s been lots of discussion about the ways that cable providers, which also usually double as Internet providers, could sabotage streaming video sites by slowing down video connections or charging video providers extra money to reach viewers. That’s a big part of why the FCC last year passed the Open Internet Order, which bans providers from discriminating against certain types of Internet traffic. But cable companies may have more subtle ways of keeping viewers from cutting the cord.

Overnight Tech: FCC oversight heads to the Senate (The Hill 3/1)

All five members of the Federal Communications Commission are slated to testify Wednesday in front of a Senate committee to discuss the agenda during President Obama’s final year in office.

Senate Commerce Committee John Thune (R-S.D.) hinted that two large topics of conversation will be the FCC’s newly proposed rules meant to open up the market on cable TV set-top boxes and the federal government’s spectrum policy. The FCC is slated to soon begin a large spectrum auction, and the committee is considering a bill that would require the government to study the best way to entice federal agencies to sell of their spectrum reserves to make room for more smartphone use.

FCC Probes Cable Firms’ Influence on Web TV (Wall Street Journal 2/28)

The Federal Communications Commission is probing whether big cable firms use special contract provisions to discourage media companies—from Walt Disney Co. to smaller firms—from running programming on the Internet.

It is part of a broader attempt by the FCC to address one of the big conundrums of the telecom age: Why has television been so slow to come to the Internet, despite technical breakthroughs that made it possible long ago?

FCC: Don’t Choose The Box (Forbes- Commentary 2/29)

The FCC t is playing “Let’s Make a Deal” with your cable TV programming. But, unlike the TV game show, this time there will be no “game” prizes for consumers, only negative long term consequences.

A month back, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a plan to unlock cable TV set top boxes (STBs). Under the plan, consumers would be able to acquire a uniform STB from either retailers or their providers, and potential competitors (such as Netflix and Google would be allowed to use the same box to offer alternative programming to consumers, as well as possibly taking parts of cable’s program lineup and repackaging the content. Essentially, the plan promises increased competition and choice, and the Chairman has cited rising STB costs as evidence that urgent action is needed to help consumers.

One year later, net neutrality fight enters new phase (The Hill 2/28)

he fight over net neutrality is entering a new phase, one year after the Federal Communications Commission approved the landmark Internet rules.

Regulators are moving to develop new standards, even as critics push forward to have the courts or Congress curb or strike down the rules down entirely.

FCC Expected to Move on Broadband Privacy Rules in March (Bloomberg BNA 2/28)

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to start a rulemaking process for broadband Internet service provider privacy rules at its March 31 open meeting, multiple telecommunications industry sources told Bloomberg BNA on background.

A notice of proposed rulemaking is likely to be on the meeting agenda, according to the industry sources. It is expected to lay out how the agency intends to apply Section 222 of the Communications Act of 1934 to ISPs that were reclassified under Title II of the Act with the commission’s Open Internet order in 2015. That section of the law was originally written to protect customer proprietary network information (CPNI), such as billing information, collected by telephone carriers.

Bill Directs FCC to Study IoT Spectrum Needs (Broadcasting & Cable 3/1)

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would direct the FCC to identify the spectrum requirements for the growing Internet of things (IoT) and study the impacts of connected technologies.

The Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act follows up on a resolution that passed the Senate last March that called for a national strategy on IoT.

The bill estimates that more than 50 billion devices will be connected by 2020 generating billions in economic opportunity.