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FCC Working to Poke Taxpayers’ Eyes Out in Tennessee and North Carolina

July 30, 2014

by Mike Wendy
Media Freedom

In early June, Tom Wheeler touted in a blog post that “I believe that it is in the best interests of consumers and competition that the FCC exercises its power to preempt state laws that ban or restrict competition from community broadband. Given the opportunity, we will do so.”

And like, shazaam, just last Friday, Chattanooga, TN’s municipal broadband provider – EPB – and the City of Wilson, NC petitioned the FCC to preempt / overturn portions of Tennessee and North Carolina law that protect taxpayers by limiting municipally-provided communications services.

Though Tom Wheeler and the petitioners might believe that the FCC can preempt these state laws via Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act – a dubious, untested formula provided by the recent DC Circuit ruling, which struck down core aspects of the agency’s Net Neutrality rules – at least 20 states and their taxpaying voters would beg to differ.

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The cost of Title II debate: Prioritizing the past over the future

July 30, 2014

by Roslyn Layton
Tech Policy Daily

When FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai calls the Title II debate a “distraction,” we should pay attention. Pai would like to see everyone get on board with the IP transition, the process to modernize America’s networks from the paradigm of the old telephone monopoly to a world where all networks deliver video, data, and broadband. In his speech at the Internet Innovation Alliance – which was punctuated with allusions to Charles Dickens, “The IP Transition: Great Expectations Or Bleak House?” – Commissioner Pai observed that America is in the best and worst of times. Indeed the state of broadband has never been better, but the level of telecom policy discourse could hardly be worse. The policy debate has regressed to a backward-looking discussion on how the FCC should regulate broadband using Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, the framework which managed the monopoly telephone system.

As multiple FCC reports have demonstrated, broadband speeds and availability continue to improve in the US. As Commissioner Pai outlined, there are, “1,712 broadband providers investing in the United States. 1,710 more providers than there were 40 years ago when Ma Bell was a legal monopoly and ARPANET (now the Internet) a government project.” Wireless broadband is available to 99.8 percent of Americans, and fixed broadband is available to 96 percent. In 2013, there were 163 million broadband subscriptions, or about one and a half per household. When including connections good enough for email, web browsing, or VoIP, the number soars to 276 million.

Meanwhile, the FCC is mired in the mistakes of the “past, present, and future.” Commissioner Pai gave the example of the FCC’s indecision on whether to complete the survey on the enterprise data services market, better known as the special access proceeding. This one-time data collection would require 6,400 investigations, each taking 134 hours, some 934,400 hours in total. The endeavor, which would cost tens of millions of dollars to execute, focuses on a product that runs at only 1.5 Mbps, a speed that does not even fit within the FCC’s own definition of broadband.

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Government-Run Broadband Would be a Dismal Failure

July 25, 2014

by Evan Swarztrauber
TechFreedom

Yesterday, Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC filed petitions to the FCC requesting that the Commission overturn state laws restricting the expansion of their municipal broadband networks. But overturning these laws to enable government-run broadband would needlessly cost taxpayers millions of dollars, without actually delivering a better product than what’s possible with increased private competition.

“Americans want faster, cheaper broadband and, yes, more choices, but not government-run broadband — especially not after the revelations of the last year about Internet surveillance,” said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom. “Government-run broadband has been a dismal failure.”  Szoka pointed to Provo, Utah, which spent $39 million in taxpayer dollars to build broadband network, only to turn around and sell it to Google for $1 “after realizing that cities aren’t very good at running high-tech networks.”

“The real answer here is making it easier for all private companies to deploy broadband,” Szoka argued.  But some state laws restrict cities from leasing municipal property such as unused fiber or from co-locating servers on municipal property. “Let’s focus on clearing the kind of red-tape that made Verizon give up on deploying FiOS in cities like Baltimore and Boston — and ending the NIMBYism that has stymied Sonic.net’s efforts to deploy fiber in San Francisco, the tech capital of the nation,” Szoka said.  “Even Google decided to exclude ‘The City that Never Stops Complaining’ from its Bay Area fiber plans.”

The FCC has no legal authority to preempt any of these laws, Szoka said. Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which the agency cites as its source of power, “simply is not an independent grant of authority,” explained Read More…

End the Costly Integration Ban

July 25, 2014

by Randolph J. May
Free State Foundation

This past Tuesday the House of Representatives, in a bipartisan voice vote, passed a bill reauthorizing the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act. STELA allows satellite providers, such as Dish Network and DirecTV, to import TV signals from other markets when their subscribers cannot pick up over-the-air local stations. The current STELA authorization expires at the end of this year, and the Senate is expected to act on an extension before then.A provision in the STELA reauthorization bill would end the FCC’s set-top box “integration ban.” This outdated, costly FCC regulation bans cable operators from integrating the security and programming navigation functions in set-top boxes. The supposed rationale for the integration ban, which was implemented in 2007, was to promote the availability of an independent retail market in set-top boxes.In short, from the very beginning, in light of the competition among multichannel video providers that already then existed, it was clear that the costs imposed by the mandated separation of security and program navigation functions outweighed the consumer benefits. Consumers never took to purchasing set-top boxes enabled with the “CableCard” technology. And all the while, robust competition among video service providers has been driving ongoing enhancements and new features in the video providers’ own set-top boxes, not to mention the various new innovative navigation devices used in conjunction with Internet video services.Congressman Bob Latta, Vice Chair of the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, deserves much credit for leading the effort in the House to eliminate the integration ban. It is his bill, H.R. 3196, the “Consumer Choice in Video Devices Act,” co-sponsored by Texas Congressman Gene Greene, that is now incorporated into the STELA reauthorization. Indeed, shortly after Congressman Latta introduced H.R. 3196, he delivered a keynote address at a Free State Foundation event at which he explained that the integration ban already has resulted in over $1 billion in increased costs to consumers since it went into effect in 2007. The separation mandate imposed over $50 in additional costs on each leased set-top box. Moreover, as Congressman Latta said in introducing Read More…

Event recap: Who governs the Internet?

July 23, 2014

by Shane Tews
Tech Policy Daily

During yesterday’s morning discussion on “Who governs the Internet,” Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda noted that “The Internet is a platform for the creation and distribution of wealth.” If anyone knows this, it is Ambassador Sepulveda, who through his role as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and US Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy actively engages with government officials from all over the world – all of whom seem to have a keen understanding that the Internet brings innovation and creativity that benefit individuals, civil society, and local economies.

This universal understanding of the benefits of the Internet is good news seeing as we’ve heard quite a bit lately about challenges the Internet has brought to the diplomatic table; countries pushing for data localization, raising privacy concerns, blocking social networks, and trying to keep up in the fight against cybercrime.

The Internet governance landscape has entered a period of transformation. As pointed out by ICANN Chairman Steve Crocker, technological change is continuously testing the boundaries of organizational and political assumptions, and the policy framework must adjust. But even in this period of upheaval, it is not completely clear why Internet governance – a relatively technical and bureaucratic issue – should be receiving as much attention as it has recently. American University professor and author Laura DeNardis said it best: “Arrangements of technical architecture are always arrangements of power.” Perhaps the public is realizing that there is an awful lot of power in those Internet connections?

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Net neutrality defenders actually fine if Internet users decide what goes fast

July 21, 2014

by Nancy Scola
Tech Policy Daily

As the Federal Communications Commission wraps up its open comment period for its net neutrality proceedings, AT&T is in with its 99-page contribution. And there’s one section in particular that has caught the attention and earned the ire of some fans of neutrality regulations. It has to do with the idea that in some cases, some of its customers might chose to, say, dedicate more of the bandwidth that they pay for to certain applications, effectively degrading others. Here’s AT&T:

For example, an AT&T customer might choose to prioritize latency- and jitter-sensitive VoIP packets or video conference packets over ordinary web browsing packets, and AT&T would honor those designations over that customer’s “last mile” Internet facilities. There is no conceivable reason that such services, demanded and used widely by business customers today, should be foreclosed by regulatory fiat.

More simply put, you, AT&T broadband customer, might choose to curate your broadband connection so that your Vonage calls generally ring through with a quickness but are delayed a bit when you’re engaged in a heavy “World of Warcraft” session.

That can sound a lot like the “paid prioritization” that is at the heart of today’s net neutrality debate, and the tech site Ars Technica has branded what AT&T has in mind as a “giant loophole” in a “‘fast lane’ ban.”

But AT&T cites support for such “user-directed prioritization” on the part of high-profile net neutrality advocacy groups like the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Tech and the Massachusetts-based Free Press. And there’s good reason for that: Those groups are perfectly okay with the idea.

“The issue comes down to who’s deciding what gets priority,” says Andrew McDiarmid, a senior policy analyst at CDT. “It’s much less of an issue if a user makes the technical decision about what gets priority, and it’s not the same thing as a ISP being in the position of deciding winners and losers.” Matt Wood is the policy director at Free Press, and perhaps no group has been as energetically and vocally in favor of the FCC adopting aggressive net neutrality regulations. Even he says: “People should be free to use their connection any way they want. That’s the point of all this.”

That AT&T is making CDT and Free Press’s thinking the centerpiece of its arguments is a sure sign that we’ve reached the jiu-jitsu phase of the net neutrality debate, where the best move you can make is one that uses your opponents’s Read More…

#FAIL – FCC Turns into DMV, Servers Clogged on “Net Neutrality Day”

July 15, 2014

by Mike Wendy
Media Freedom

#FAIL – On the last day to take comments for its Net Neutrality rulemaking – a day that the FCC has no choice but to make the Internet work for it due to the expected high volume of comments streaming over the medium to the agency – their servers are clogged.

Looks like the FCC’s turned into the DMV.

The agency wants to run the Internet with its expansive Net Neutrality rule…

…and yet they can’t even get file transfers right (when it knows a ton are coming).

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Digital Liberty Executive Katie McAuliffe writes powerful Op-Ed in support of digital privacy

July 8, 2014

by Miriah Olzweski
Digital Liberty

Digital technology is no longer just a simple pleasure to Americans, but rather a way and function of life. The days of technology have fostered incredible innovation, but also an incredible lack of privacy. “The Fourth amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to be ’secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects.’ However, that right is being threatened by outdated laws that have not kept pace with advances in technology over time.” This extremely pertinent point was made by Digital Liberty Executive, Katie McAuliffe in an Op-Ed with The Bakersfield Californian published on Sunday, July 6th. Katie goes on to discuss how important applying to Fourth Amendment to modern technology is. Currently, personal email is available to the eyes of the government. Fortunately, there is hope for change on the horizons. Congressmen and women are working to support The Email Privacy Act, which would work to prohibit a snooping government. Ultimately, privacy is in the telecommunications world is of utmost importance. Read more of Katie’s article, “We must protect our privacy in the digital age” here:

We must protect our privacy in the digital age

Our Founding Fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence in order to create a nation where its people would have rights to freedom, liberty and privacy. While most Americans celebrated our nation’s independence this past weekend with family, friends and fireworks over the weekend, we are focusing on how our Fourth Amendment rights are being eroded in this digital age.

The Fourth amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to be “secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects.” However, that right is being threatened by outdated laws that have not kept pace with advances in technology over time.

One area in particular that has suffered is our digital privacy. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed in 1986 in an attempt to extend Fourth Amendment protections to the digital space. However, at that time, most Americans did not use email, and there was no foresight that we would one day store the majority of our personal communications, photographs and documents in the “cloud.” ECPA in its current form says the government can access this information without probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, using a mere subpoena issued by a prosecutor or investigator with no judicial review.

Though Americans’ online communications are currently vulnerable to government snooping, there is pending legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives that could remedy the gaping hole that exists in our privacy rights. The Email Privacy Act would extend protections to Americans’ private communications stored in the cloud. This legislation, lead by Reps. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., has garnered broad, bipartisan support from more than half of the members in the House. This is legislation new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy could help move forward to ensure Americans’ private communications stored online are protected. Moreover, there is clear momentum for protecting Americans’ data with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that Fourth Amendment protections extend to cell phones.

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Uber-Left Free Press “Net Neutrality” Isn’t What Most Supporters Think It Is

June 23, 2014

by Seton Motley
Human Events

In the cinematic classic “The Princess Bride,” Inigo Montoya utters thenow oft-repeated “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”Uber-Left government-media outfit Free Press is highly practiced in this disingenuous art.  Their name is one shining example.  It sounds good, but when you find out for what they actually stand – not so much.And they use “Net Neutrality” one way publicly to engender support for the already heinous policy – but their ultimate intent with it is something drastically different, and dramatically worse.

Free Press’ presented Net Neutrality persona sounds benign and innocuous.

When we log on to the Internet via our computer or smartphone, we take a lot for granted. We assume we’ll be able to access any website or use any application we want, whenever we want, at the fastest speed, whether it’s a corporate site or a friend’s blog. We assume we can use any service we like — watch online videos, update our Facebook status, read the news — any time we choose, on any device we choose. What makes all these assumptions possible is a principle called Net Neutrality.

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HBO Pseudo-News Anchor John Oliver Gets Net Neutrality Fundamentally Wrong

June 16, 2014

by Seton Motley
Newsbusters

So it turns out there that something doesn’t have to be true to be funny.

Many a thinking American – who knows media bias – finds the following perversely appropriate.

Young Get News From Comedy Central

Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather … and Jon Stewart?

Readers over 30 might scoff at Stewart’s inclusion – assuming they know who he is. For many under 30, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” is, improbably, a source for news.

Looking to further ride the wave (beyond just Real Time with Bill Maher), HBO hired away Comedy Central “reporter” John Oliver to anchor a new “news” show - Last Week Tonight. And on June 1, Oliver spent thirteen minutes on Network Neutrality.  And the pseudo-news pseudo-consumers were thrilled.

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Free-Market Advocates’ Comments to FCC, Opposing Internet Regulation

July 15, 2014

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of  Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet

GN Docket No. 14-28

Comments of

Free-Market Advocates Opposed to Internet Regulation

For 10 years officials at the Federal Communications Commission have told Americans that the Internet will “break” unless the agency steps in to keep it “free and open.”  All the while, the Internet’s privately driven development has been vibrant, relentless and universal.  Nevertheless, at points during this same period the Commission twice sought to encumber the Internet with restrictive common carrier-like, Net Neutrality regulations.  In response to each of these actions, the DC Circuit twice struck down the agency’s overreach.  In the latest DC Circuit ruling – Verizon v. FCC[1] – the Court struck down the main thrust of the Commission’s arguments, but found that the Commission had some authority under Section 706 of the Communications Act.   The Commission has apparently undertaken the present Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to once again establish a regulatory regime in the absence of a market failure or a clear Congressional grant of authority.

The Internet is “free and open,” making the vast “network of networks” an integral engine for societal growth, participatory democracy and global commerce.  Its healthy development came primarily through the lack of government regulation, not because of it.  Although the Court seems to have offered the FCC a very narrow pathway to impose some form of Net Neutrality regulation on the Internet, nothing demands that the FCC go forward with its present plans.

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IFC Reply Comments to FCC: Title II Reclassification Unjustified, Unnecessary

August 12, 2010

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of Framework for Broadband Internet Service                    

GN Docket No. 10-127

FCC Docket No. 10-114

 Reply Comments

of the Undersigned Members of the

INTERNET FREEDOM COALITION

Introduction

The Commission is being asked by Free Press and other organizations to pursue a radical course of action – reclassifying information services as telecommunications services in order to regulate the Internet for the first time.  We write to urge the Commission to keep the Internet free of new government regulation and taxation and to refrain from rushing into such a potentially disastrous course of action.

Analysts are only beginning to grasp the extent of the disruptive and destructive consequences of regulating the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act, and the Commission is in no position to predict the outcome, much less assure Americans it will be positive.  Americans have heard political leaders admit that we will not know the full extent or nature of massive health care and financial services regulations until after the underlying legislation has been passed.  Now, Americans are facing the imposition of an even lesser-understood regulatory regime over the Internet without the benefit of any legislative process whatsoever.

CLICK HERE FOR PDF

IFC Supplemental Reply Comments: FCC Lacks Authority, Justification for Reclassifying Internet as Title II Service

April 26, 2010

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
Preserving the Open Internet              GN Docket No. 09-191                                  
Broadband Industry Practices            WC Docket No. 07-52

Supplemental Reply Comments of the Internet Freedom Coalition

Just two days prior to the Commission’s deadline for reply comments regarding the above Notice of Proposed Rulemakings, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in Comcast v. FCC that the Commission has no authority to enact Net Neutrality rules.  The deadline for comments was extended, particularly to facilitate discussion of other methods of promulgating Net Neutrality regulations.

 Beginning with comments on the National Broadband Plan filed by Public Knowledge in January, a small number of organizations have since proposed classifying the Internet as a Title II common carrier service as a way of asserting the Commission’s authority to enact Net Neutrality regulations.  The Internet Freedom Coalition respectfully submits these reply comments in strong opposition to any effort to reclassify the Internet as a Title II service.

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IFC Reply Comments to FCC: Refuting Free Press’ Arguments for Regulating the Internet

April 26, 2010

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of                                           
Preserving the Open Internet                      GN Docket No. 09-191
Broadband Industry Practices                    WC Docket No. 07-52

Reply Comments of the Internet Freedom Coalition

The following comments are submitted by the undersigned members of the Internet Freedom Coalition.  They are submitted in reply to comments filed by proponents of Network Neutrality regulations, and are attributable only to the signatories.

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Internet Freedom Coalition Comments to the FCC, Opposing Network Neutrality Regulations

February 23, 2010

Before the

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

Washington, DC 20554

In the Matter of
Preserving the Open Internet,                 GN Docket No. 09-191
Broadband Industry Practices                WC Docket No. 07–52; FCC 09–93
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

 Comments of the Internet Freedom Coalition

 Introduction

 The Internet Freedom Coalition is an ad hoc coalition of organizations and individuals committed to the continued growth and improvement of the Internet, who believe regulations and taxes are harmful to those ends. The Internet Freedom Coalition believes that a free and open Internet is beneficial, but argues that regulatory intervention in the well-functioning marketplace that has thus far produced a vast, free and open network would unnecessarily limit the current and future supply of bandwidth, and would harm both producers and consumers. These comments are attributable only to the individual signatories.

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