With the FCC swinging a large regulatory hammer these days, Fred Campbell of Forbes takes a close look at the Commission’s conditions for the recent merger of AT&T and DIRECTV. What he finds is another example of the FCC going rogue with regulation. An excerpt:
The merger’s pricing condition is retail rate regulation, but it’s far worse than what “was done in the pre-broadband days.” In old-fashioned rate-making cases, the FCC is required to justify the rate it imposes. The merger order “doesn’t even make a cursory attempt to explain how it arrived at this $10 price point” or why price regulation should apply to AT&T only and not its competitors.
What rules violation or competitive harm did the referee cite for throwing the retail rate regulation flag at AT&T only? None. The FCC penalized AT&T because it can. Unfortunately, no referee exists to throw a flag when the FCC discriminates against companies in a merger proceeding.
Campbell’s conclusion is that Congress needs to apply more oversight on FCC decisions:
The integrity of any game depends on the credibility of its officiating. That’s why the NFL watches its referees to make sure they are abiding by the rules too. When fans can’t trust officials to make a fair call, the league needs to reign in its referees. With the FCC, that task belongs to Congress.
Check out Fred Campbell’s full piece over at Forbes.
Our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman has a piece in Bloomberg BNA on regulation the FCC is considering as America transitions to all Internet-based networks. An excerpt:
The nation’s historic transition away from the copper wire toward a modern Internet Protocol-based (“IP”) communication system represents a critical technological leap forward. The United States aims to complete this transition by 2020; indeed, the impetus for this effort actually first came from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, then in his role as head of an advisory board on technology transition.
This transition will ultimately bring consumers new technology, billions of dollars in new infrastructure, and faster and better broadband services and applications. Today, test trials for the transition are underway in Alabama and Florida to work out technical issues and ensure superior service quality for consumers.
Recently, however, Chairman Wheeler publicly outlined his proposed next steps for the IP transition that include applying old monopoly-style telephone rules to favor and advance certain carriers’ business models. Applying such rules to IP-based broadband communications networks of the future would benefit companies that serve businesses, yet provide little to no benefit to the average consumer.
Specifically, in response to the supposed need to “preserve competition in the enterprise market,” the FCC plans to require that “replacement services be offered to competitive providers at rates, terms and conditions that are reasonably comparable to those of the legacy services.”
Check out Mehlman’s full piece from Bloomberg BNA
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher talked with Jeff Hawn of RCR Wireless News for an article on Title II and net neutrality. In the article, Boucher argues that Congress needs to recognize the principles of net neutrality, but that Title II is simply an outdated fit when it comes to regulating broadband. An excerpt:
Boucher’s viewpoint is supported by a recent Georgetown study co-authored by Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute and Robert Shapiro of the Georgetown Center for Business Policy.
In the study, they write that Title II regulation is “likely to increase costs and regulatory hurdles for providers. Introducing substantial, new regulation of the businesses that provide much of the Internet’s infrastructure and content could not only raise the cost and price of most Internet communications, it also could reduce the efficiency of most network arrangements that depend on Internet platforms, devalue the investments made in those platforms or based on them, and force many organizations to reorient their enterprises in ways that would minimize the costs of the regulation rather than maximizing efficient operations.”
“The uncertainty of Title II will likely cool the willingness of ISPs to make investments in their infrastructure, the net effect of which is that we won’t get the broadband build-out we otherwise would,” Boucher added. “Additionally, companies will be more cautious with new innovations. Essentially Title II hits the slow-down button and it’s the American consumer who will suffer.”
A recent Georgetown University Study by Kevin Hassett and Robert Shapiro confirms that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to subject Internet Service Providers (“ISPs) to “Title II” public utility regulation will “have significant adverse effects on future investment in the Internet.”
The study highlights how new regulation can have a “destructive, negative effect” if capital investment is delayed as a result of the need to resolve new market uncertainty. It notes how the history of FCC regulation of Internet companies has been surprisingly uniform and consistent. Whether under a Democratic or Republican Administration, the historical arc of broadband regulation gravitated toward a light-touch deregulatory approach that treated the Internet as an information service rather than a heavily-regulated telephone common carrier service.
Such treatment of broadband as an information service allowed the pace of Internet adoption to rapidly exceed that of the personal computer or dial-up Internet service. Technological advances and competition accelerated broadband uptake by lowering its “average, quality-adjusted price” that further accelerated its uptake. By contrast, studies have detailed how common carrier regulation inhibited competition for consumers and businesses, and discouraged and slowed innovation in telephone service.
Consumers now, however, bear the risks of the FCC’s decision to reverse course and impose new regulations on ISPs that today provide much of the Internet’s infrastructure and content. Such regulation could ultimately result in increased costs and price for Internet service beyond new universal service fees. Moreover, the Georgetown study notes how the regulatory path toward Title II may result in reduced efficiency of key network arrangements that depend on the Internet platform. Reduced efficiency could have the long-term negative effect of devaluing the investments made in those platforms or based on them and thus trigger many in the Internet ecosystem to minimize the costs of regulation rather than maximize efficient operations.
In addition, the study identifies scholarship that quantifies the negative potential impact of telecommunications regulation on broadband investment. For example, the ban on “paid priority” arrangements could affect telemedicine applications and cost the economy $100 million per year by 2019. More generally, Title II regulation of ISPs could reduce their “future wireline investments by between 17.8 percent and 31.7 percent per year, and their future total wireline and wireless investments by between 12.8 percent and 20.8 percent per year.”
The study’s authors also raise helpful international comparisons to better understand the imminent consequences of Title II regulation on broadband investment. Specifically, they note the “large negative effects on investment” if our nation’s regulatory model were moved closer to the heavy-handed regulations that governed Europe’s communications landscape in the first decade of the 21st century.
Finally, the Georgetown study’s most sobering point is how the “negative effects of uncertainty” resulting from the FCC’s sudden policy shift and on-going litigation may actually understate the harm of reduced broadband investment.
In light of this additional evidence and the potential harm to broadband and consumers, the Internet Innovation Alliance again emphasizes its support for a bipartisan legislative solution to promote an Open Internet without overly burdensome Title II Common Carrier Regulations for 21st Century broadband.
Earlier today, the Media Institute released its “Net Vitality Index In Detail” report, which is a data-heavy companion to its report from April this year called “Net Vitality: Identifying the Top-Tier Global Broadband Internet Ecosystem Leaders.” For those who like to wonk out on broadband stats — which we definitely do — both reports are worth digging into. From the press release accompanying the new report:
Harvard Law School faculty member and Media Institute Global Internet Freedom Advisory Council member Stuart N. Brotman authored both reports. He compiled the detailed data released today for the benefit of scholars, researchers, and policymakers who desire an in-depth look at the metrics used in assessing the broadband Internet ecosystem capabilities of countries around the world.
Based on five years of research, the Net Vitality Index is the first holistic analysis of the global broadband Internet ecosystem, identifying the United States, South Korea, Japan, United Kingdom, and France as the top-tier leaders. Unlike the one-dimensional rankings that serve as the basis of most broadband comparative studies, Brotman’s composite analysis takes into account 52 indices developed independently to evaluate countries on an apples-to-apples basis. Overarching categories assessed encompass applications and content, devices, networks, and macroeconomic factors.
The new detailed report is a treasure trove of data. Some highlights:
• While Windows 7 still dominates when it comes to personal computer operating systems, both Android and Apple’s iOS rank in the top 5 — which is pretty incredible given both operating systems are less than a decade old.
• Surprisingly, at 56.4%, the United States ranks 13th when it comes to smartphone penetration. The leader? The United Arab Emirates at 73.8% penetration.
• The United States continues to domination when it comes to investment in telecommunications, more than doubling the dollars invested by China over the same time period.
• When it comes to mobile app development, the United States is the leader of the world, with the vast majority of apps dominating the charts globally having been developed by U.S. companies.
• Nine of the top 10 digital startups globally are based in the United States.
The Media Institute’s April report “Net Vitality: Identifying the Top-Tier Global Broadband Internet Ecosystem Leaders” is available here. The “Net Vitality Index In Detail” report is available here. Happy reading!
Last week, we held a discussion in Washington DC on how regulators can help — rather than hinder — the broadband economy. The featured speaker at this event was FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who delivered his vision for how the FCC and other regulatory bodies should fulfill their vital role in the face of the fast-moving technology. An excerpt from Commission O’Rielly’s speech:
As regulators consider proposals that would impact the Internet or the deployment of broadband, thoughtful analysis should be done prior to enactment to consider whether the costs and burdens imposed are greater than the benefits of acting. Given the amazing positives to be gained from an Internet free and open from government intrusion — or at least significant government intervention — there should be a universal requirement for quantifiable data under a cost-benefit analysis regime. It seems universally accepted that there are direct and indirect costs to every burden placed on Internet activities. It should be our duty to show the detailed costs and benefits of every proposal, not hypothetical claims that give short shrift to statutory requirements to do an actual analysis. If a regulator involved in some capacity with the Internet cannot accept this basic premise, maybe they are in the wrong line of work.
Let me also take a moment to provide a few other premises that most people who operate in this space accept: Internet-related taxes depress deployment and adoption; costs of regulations are ultimately passed onto consumers; and the structure of the Internet will produce some type of reaction to undermine any imposed regulation. If these premises are accepted, and they have proven to betrue time and time again, it means that regulators need to be extremely cautious in acting or risk decreasing deployment, or raising prices — and all for naught.
You can read Commissioner O’Rielly’s full remarks — and watch a video of the event, which also featured Stuart N. Brotman of the Brookings Institution, James Reid from TIA, Susan Bitter Smith of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and our own Bruce Mehlman — by clicking here.
The stat in the above graphic we put together is just one of many interesting facts you’ll find in Pew’s latest research on America Internet access. Some of the other findings:
• Age differences: Older adults have lagged behind younger adults in their adoption, but now a clear majority (58%) of senior citizens uses the internet.
• Class differences: Those with college educations are more likely than those who do not have high school diplomas to use the internet. Similarly, those who live in households earning more than $75,000 are more likely to be internet users than those living in households earning less than $30,000. Still, the class-related gaps have shrunk dramatically in 15 years as the most pronounced growth has come among those in lower-income households and those with lower levels of educational attainment.
• Racial and ethnic differences: African-Americans and Hispanics have been somewhat less likely than whites or English-speaking Asian-Americans to be internet users, but the gaps have narrowed. Today, 78% of blacks and 81% of Hispanics use the internet, compared with 85% of whites and 97% of English-speaking Asian Americans.
• Community differences: Those who live in rural areas are less likely than those in the suburbs and urban areas to use the internet. Still, 78% of rural residents are online.
You can check out all of Pew’s findings at their website.
Update: You can read Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s full remarks here.
The Role for Regulators in an Expanding Broadband Economy
Innovation, convergence and rapid technological advances are rapidly reshaping the Internet ecosystem and how Washington’s legislators and regulators approach national broadband policymaking. Ongoing consideration of new policies will shape the future of an Open Internet for the 21st century.
The Internet Innovation Alliance invites you to join a policy discussion that will address:
• The appropriate role for regulators in an expanding broadband economy;
• The impact of different regulatory approaches toward the Internet and its meaning for the broadband economy;
• Congress’ role going forward in setting clear rules of the road for the Open Internet;
• The interrelationship between regulation and investment in broadband, and what, if any, impact it will have on potential legislative action going forward.
Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Followed by a panel discussion including
Stuart N. Brotman
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Center for Technology Innovation
The Brookings Institution
Randolph J. May
President, Free State Foundation
Senior Vice President of Government Affairs,
Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)
Susan Bitter Smith
Chairman, Arizona Corporation Commission
Bruce Mehlman (Moderator)
Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance
Earlier today, IIA sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler expressing our support for the Commission’s upcoming rulemaking proceeding soon to be initiated to advance Lifeline reform. From that letter, signed by IIA Chairmen Rick Boucher, Bruce Mehlman, Larry Irving, and Jamal Simmons:
“In the U.S., consumers with economic means have nearly ubiquitous access to broadband, yet almost two-thirds of our nation’s low-income community continues to seek that similar opportunity. Without broadband availability, low-income families face an uphill battle in obtaining the American dream.
“In bringing Lifeline into the 21st century, broadband should be included as an integral, more affordable offering of the program, and consumers should be empowered by providing the subsidy directly to eligible people instead of companies. Moreover, to enhance administrative efficiency, we urge the FCC to shift program eligibility verification away from companies that are not accountable to the American people, and instead allow states to verify eligibility for Lifeline at the same time they determine consumer eligibility for other federal low-income programs. Such ‘coordinated enrollment’ would benefit consumers by streamlining the eligibility process and ultimately enable subsidy recipients to receive a ‘Lifeline Benefit Card’ where consumers could apply the funds to the provider of their choosing. These reforms would make program participation for all service providers more attractive, thereby broadening consumer choice and stimulating competition for the low-income consumer purchasing power.
“IIA applauds the Commission for quickly moving forward to initiate a new proceeding aimed to advance Lifeline reform this year. The time for reform is now, the need is great, and the goal is achievable.“
You can read the full letter here. Additionally, you can download our white paper on reforming the Lifeline program that we published last November.
Last week, venture capitalist Mary Meeker released her annual Internet Trends Report at Re/Code’s Code Conference. The presentation totaled a whopping 197 slides, so you might want to carve out some time before watching.
Thankfully, Joshua Brustein of Bloomberg has put together a good write-up of the presentation, which included a number of slides breaking down some key insights. Some of those slides that we’ve found particularly interesting are below.