What’s Hot List: 1/15/16

The Battle Over Internet Rate Regulation In The Net Neutrality War (Forbes 1/11/16)

Tomorrow the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on a communications bill that seems like a minor miracle. The bill proposes to adopt an essential part of President Obama’s net neutrality plan to regulate broadband Internet access services — i.e., that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) won’t regulate broadband rates.

All of these smart CES toys? We’re going to need 5G (CNET 1/6/16)

The cutting edge apps and products shown off at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show will increasingly need a cutting edge wireless network. Our current 4G LTE speeds may not be enough.

That’s why executives from Intel, Cisco, Ericsson and Qualcomm converged at the show’s broadband panel in the Las Vegas Convention Center to debate the shape of 5G, the architecture for the next generation wireless network.

FCC Regulations Impeding Competition And Concentrating The Broadband Market (Forbes 1/13/16)

Does the FCC’s public utility-style regulation of wireline incumbent telephone companies (abbreviated here as ILECs) and their legacy copper-based voice services work to protect consumers or impede broadband competition? That is the question explored by a new American Consumer Institute study.

Telephone service regulations came about in the 1930s to control the telephone industry’s monopoly power. Today, the monopolies are gone, but the regulations persist. Because the ILECs’ competitors are not subject to the same voice telephone service regulations, these asymmetric regulations put ILECs at a competitive disadvantage and it affects market outcomes – investment, innovation, market shares and, yes, consumer choice.

Computer Mogul Michael Dell Stands to Reap Billions From FCC Auction (Wall Street Journal 1/13/16)

Billionaire Michael Dell has been scooping up local TV stations across the country in recent years. Now, he stands to make as much as $4 billion from a government effort to buy back those airwaves.

In more than a dozen deals since 2011, a company controlled by Mr. Dell’s investment fund has spent about $80 million on independent TV stations, according to government records.

The purchases include about $5 million for a Spanish-language broadcaster in Seattle and $7.25 million for a collection of Pittsburgh-area stations that aired a daily noon Mass from a local Catholic church and reruns of “Roseanne.”

Broadcasters Face Deadline Tuesday to Join FCC Auction (Wall Street Journal 1/12/16)

Many television stations throughout the country are having existential discussions ahead of a Tuesday evening deadline over whether to sell their broadcasting airwaves to the government in a multibillion-dollar upcoming auction.

In the auction, the government will buy airwaves from TV stations and then resell those licenses for wireless services. For small TV stations, participating in the auction is a chance to cash out of an asset that is likely more valuable for wireless operators, but those that end up selling their spectrum face the possibility of ending up off the air.

GOP report questions FCC competence, integrity on open records (The Hill 1/12/16)

The Federal Communications Commission might be deliberately withholding public records, according to a Republican-led report released this week.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report concluded that the FCC’s is either incompetent or intentionally misused redactions under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold internal communication about its controversial Internet regulations.

Eshoo: FCC Should Not Regulate ISP Rates (Broadcasting & Cable 1/12/16)

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, says she is not for the FCC regulating the monthly rate consumers pay for Internet access—a sentiment she shares with full committee ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone—but points out that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s Title II approach to net neutrality regs foregoes rate reg provisions.

That came in her opening remarks for a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on a quartet of communications bills including H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Act, which would prevent the FCC from regulating those rates.

As Comcast Caps Expand, House Wants FCC Authority Gutted (DSL Reports 1/12/16)

Historically the FCC has steered clear of regulating broadband prices. In fact, for fifteen years the FCC has been hard pressed to even acknowledge that high broadband prices due to limited competition is a problem that needs fixing. Still, House Republicans floated several new legislative proposals this week, one of which apparently uses the menace of the FCC setting acceptable broadband rates as an excuse to broadly restrict FCC authority.

The “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Act” doesn’t have too much to it so far, simply stating:


“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Communications Commission may not regulate the rates charged for broadband Internet access service.”

Why this sudden interest in the FCC engaging in broadband rate regulation? Comcast and other broadband providers are increasingly expanding their practice of usage caps and overage fees, and as the cable giant begins pushing its luck ever harder (by say, exempting its own streaming service from the caps), pressure is building for the FCC to actually do something about this.

Twitter, in Punishing a Controversial User, Stokes Freedom of Speech Debate (Wall Street Journal 1/11/16)

Twitter Inc.  has ignited a debate over freedom of speech on the Internet by stripping the verification status of a controversial journalist for violating the social media site’s rules of conduct.

On Friday, Twitter removed the blue check mark on the account of Milo Yiannopoulos, who writes for Breitbart News, a conservative media outlet. He posted a letter on his account that he received from the company, saying that he lost his verified badge “due to recent violations of the Twitter Rules.” Mr. Yiannopoulos denied he has done anything wrong and slammed Twitter for its opaque decision.

The Battle Over Internet Rate Regulation In The Net Neutrality War (Forbes 1/11/16)

Tomorrow the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on a communications bill that seems like a minor miracle. The bill proposes to adopt an essential part of President Obama’s net neutrality plan to regulate broadband Internet access services — i.e., that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) won’t regulate broadband rates.

Political Ad Disclosure Not on FCC’s Docket (Broadcasting & Cable 1/11/16)

Despite calls from congressional Democrats and campaign finance reformers, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has not signaled an interest in looking into the extent of the commission’s authority to require more detailed disclosures of the funders of those PAC and SuperPAC ads filling station coffers.

Time is growing short to do anything about it before the 2016 elections, and Wheeler has indicated he is in no rush to wrestle with the issue. 

Overturn FCC rules on Municipal Broadband Networks (The Tennessean 1/11/16- Opinion)

With the 2016 legislative session coming up, state lawmakers must resist the urge to retreat into our own ideological camps and instead focus on what’s best for our communities.

Our state legislature did that in 1999 when it passed a law concerning government-owned broadband networks (GONs). Today that bipartisan law is under threat from an unelected, five-member regulatory committee in our nation’s capital.