Monday, September 08
Late last week, Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics (he’s also one of our Broadband Ambassadors) penned a column for Forbes breaking down the negative effects Title II regulations could have on the growing industry of web video. An excerpt:
Broadband and mobile networks and the core Internet have all grown up outside of Title II. The lack of interference from Washington is a big factor in their success (and why the heavily regulated Title II telephone network is withering away).
A Title II reclassification of broadband would throw broadband into a regulatory world it’s never seen; undermine the economics and existing technical and business arrangements of the entire ecosystem; and ignite a decade’s worth of strident litigation. Not only would Title II disrupt today’s broadband, video, and Web markets, it would also prevent this highly dynamic system from finding its way toward the new technologies, better products, lower prices, and unseen content innovations of the future.
Check out Swanson’s full piece over at Forbes.
Friday, September 05
A new paper from Progressive Policy Institute Senior Fellow Hal Singer and Brookings Non-Resident Senior Fellow Robert Litan examines the effect Title II regulations could have on investment and the Internet ecosystem as a whole. An excerpt:
Imposing public-utility style regulation on Internet access would dampen innovation and investment in more, faster broadband. We propose the FCC implement the same case-by-case process to adjudicate discrimination complaints it has established for cable companies to broadband providers.
It’s not just investment from traditional ISPs that could be negatively effected, Singer and Litan also warn. Many companies that provide services on the Internet could also find themselves among those regulated under Title II:
Reclassifying Internet access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II, as supplemented by the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, opens up the possibility that other tech services meet the same test. The clearest example would be Google’s ultra-fast broadband service, Google Fiber, which the company is gradually rolling out. But it does not stop there. There is a very slippery slope from subjecting ISPs as common carriers to including other forms of Internet transmissions, because they arguably use “telecommunications services,” the legal hook in Title II for its application.
For example, why not then include within the ambit of a telecommunications service the linkage to an advertiser’s website that Google and Microsoft provide for users of their search engines? By clicking on links, the search engine uses the Internet backbone; if Internet access is a “telecommunications service,” because it provides “transmissions,” then so, too, are the search engines. The same logic potentially applies to Amazon’s Kindle book reader device and service, because its owners are able to download books from Amazon, but only because they are connected to a wireless provider of Internet access in the process. Indeed, what would stop the FCC from classifying as Title II common carriers all device makers that have a connection to an ISP?
It’s not all concern and dire warnings in Singer and Litan’s paper, however, as the duo argue the FCC should focus its efforts on something already within its power:
[W]e think the FCC should eschew the heavy-handed approach of Title II regulation, and lean instead on its Section 706 authority to regulate potential abuses by ISPs on a case-by-case basis. Investment across both edge and content providers will be greater compared to Title II, and the FCC can avoid any unintended consequences such as creeping regulation that encompasses content providers or other ISP services.
Check out the full paper, “The Best Path Forward on Net Neutrality,” over at the Progressive Policy Institute.
Thursday, August 28
In the Washington Post, Larry Downes completely dismantles the argument made by those pushing for regulating broadband under Title II. An excerpt:
So why the hysteria? Many of the groups involved in what became a very personal campaign against Wheeler have long sought to turn the Internet into a regulated utility or even to nationalize it outright. Any real or perceived threat to “the Internet as we know it,” even a manufactured crisis, is simply another opportunity to push an agenda Congress wisely rejected in 1996.
The extremists don’t want the FCC to adopt any rules. They want the agency, instead, to take over. That’s the hammer; net neutrality is just a convenient nail.
Yet much of the mainstream media, including The New York Times and US News, continue to validate the non-conspiracy. They continue to accept, for example, that Wheeler is proposing to “authorize” practices dangerous to the Internet (again, the rules only prohibit practices), to “end” existing net neutrality rules (there are none), and even to allow ISPs to “block” content at their discretion (the no-blocking rule explicitly prohibits this, as does antitrust law).
If you care about the future of the Internet, Downes column is required reading.
Monday, August 25
Remember the FCC’s long-gestating spectrum incentive auctions aimed at freeing up more airwaves for mobile broadband? Well, as The Hill‘s Kate Tummarello reports, the much-needed auctions have hit a potential snag:
Broadcasters are threatening to stand in the way of next year’s highly anticipated airwave auction, putting one the Obama administration’s top priorities at risk.
Officials in the broadcast and wireless industry are hopeful that a new lawsuit from the National Association of Broadcasters will put pressure on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reach a reach a compromise to save the auction — expected to net billions of dollars — from would could be a months-long delay.
“This lawsuit puts a cloud over the auction,” said one Republican FCC aide.
In order for the auctions to be successful — not to mention generate a sizable chunk of revenue for the Federal Government — broadcasters need to be on board. Hopefully, the FCC can negotiate a deal that makes everyone happy.
At Tech Policy Daily, Babette Boliek clears up some confusion about Title II regulations:
So I say to you NYT, and others under the same misted view of Title II, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” Title II treats telephone services as a common carrier. It is not about content, it is about prices – namely the regulation of prices. The “unjust and unreasonable” language the NYT points to is about prices. For example, if the post office (the quintessential common carrier) offers shipping services to a beef producer, they have to make those services available to other beef producers. Title II does not speak to the instance where beef producers are not offered delivery services (or, by analogy, certain content not allowed), and it does not prohibit the beef producer from asking for special treatment of her beef – like refrigeration or overnight delivery.
For more on Title II and its potential negative impact on broadband, check out our recent Telecommunications Forum featuring FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.
Friday, August 15
Given all the faulty information being tossed around about regulating broadband under Title II, Patrick Brogan of US Telecom has posted a blog correcting inaccuracies being spread by some of the biggest interest groups. An excerpt:
In comments filed at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and in an earlier blog, net neutrality proponent Free Press, is making a puzzling and questionable claim that broadband investment will not be harmed by reclassification to common carrier regulation under Title II of the Communications Act. In fact, Free Press makes the incorrect claim that “Title II is good for the economy” and actually promotes broadband investment.
On the contrary, a reclassification to Title II would create unambiguously negative pressures on broadband provider investment that would not exist absent reclassification. The question is one of degree and the relative weight compared to opposing forces, like demand and competition. At a minimum, Title II reclassification seems unnecessarily risky and potentially counterproductive for policy goals dependent on more investment, such as expanding deployment to all parts of the country and enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.
Head on over to the US Telecom site to read Brogan’s post. It will add some clarity to a complex — and often misconstrued — issue.
Tuesday, July 29
If you missed last week’s Telecommunications Forum on Title II and its impact on broadband investment, check out archived stream below.
Wednesday, July 23
Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington D.C., IIA is holding a telecommunications forum on Title II regulation and its potential impact on deployment of 21st century broadband networks and services.
The Keynote Speaker for the event is FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.
Also participating are Fred Campbell, Director of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology; George Reed-Dellinger, Senior Vice President and TeleMedia/Internet Analyst for Washington Analysis; Anna-Maria Kovacs, Visiting Senior Policy Scholar at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy; and Roslyn Layton, Ph.D. fellow in Internet Economics at the Center for Communication, Media and Information Technologies at Aalborg University in Denmark.
Our own Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman will be moderating what promises to be a lively and informative discussion about the future of technology. More information, including how to watch the forum via livestream, is available here.
Monday, July 14
Title II Regulation and its Potential Impact on Deployment of
21st Century Broadband Networks and Services
Thursday, July 24th
Mandarin Oriental Hotel – The Gallery
Featuring Keynote Speaker
Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Commissioner Pai will be followed by a diverse panel of legal, policy and financial analysts that will discuss the potential legal, policy and financial impact of regulating broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.
Director, Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology
Senior Vice President and TeleMedia/Internet Analyst, Washington Analysis
Visiting Senior Policy Scholar, Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy
Ph.D. fellow in Internet Economics, the Center for Communication, Media and Information, Technologies at Aalborg University in Denmark
Bruce Mehlman (Moderator)
Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance
Breakfast will be served
*This event complies with House and Senate ethics standards*
Thursday, July 03
In an op-ed for The Street, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman argues that applying regulations from 1934 to today’s data services is a terrible idea. An excerpt:
Reclassification would lead to extreme uncertainty.
Regulatory uncertainty is the enemy of investment and innovation. Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers recently wrote the FCC that his company “...is deeply troubled by the proposals” for reclassification, warning that $60 billion a year in broadband investment could be threatened.
Chambers argues that “If Title II regulation is brought to broadband Internet access services, investment in new infrastructure will be severely hamstrung. New, innovative services may not be brought to market because entrepreneurs fear telecommunications regulation.”
Here’s the basic problem: As technology advances and as companies work ever harder to meet growing consumer demand, the old distinction between companies that focus on “transmission” and those that focus on “content” is vanishing. Each can own networks; each can (and often does) provide data and voice services. Convergence and cross-platform competition are the order of the day, yet Title II would shackle ISPs and some of the world’s most innovative companies with a regulatory regime designed for the 1930s telephone monopoly. It makes no sense.
Check out Mehlman’s full op-ed.
Tuesday, June 24
Eighty years ago this month, the Telecommunications Act of 1934 was created to regulate America’s nascent telephone service. At the time, only about 12 percent of U.S. families had phone service and rotary phones were the norm. Touch-tone phones wouldn’t appear for another three decades. This was the era of “party lines” and operators memorialized in movies sitting in front of large switchboards connecting callers to “KLondike 5-1234.”
As we mark the law’s 80th anniversary, now is not the time to slap the modern, high-speed, innovative and entrepreneur embracing Internet with rules that Congress designed for rotary telephones.
Keeping the Internet available to everyone is the right goal. However, applying Title II of the 1934 law, which treated traditional phone service as a public utility, to broadband could bring the pace of entrepreneurism and investment on the Internet to a crawl. Since 1996, when Congress last updated telecommunications laws, ISPs have invested more than $1.2 trillion. The average Internet connection speed in the U.S. has just hit a remarkable 10 Mbps, which is more than enough to stream an HD movie.
Suddenly putting the Internet under Title II could result in too much innovation needing pre-approval by the FCC. Instead of today’s “bottom up” dynamism in which consumer demands drive change, the web could become hostage to the federal government’s timetable. The spirit and freedom to innovate could depend on Congressional and FCC action.
Today’s Internet is the most free and accessible it’s ever been. That’s getting lost in the push for Title II regulation. America’s broadband deployment continues to rise and 70% of us now have broadband connections at home, according to Pew. People are spending more time online, enjoying real-time benefits with education, healthcare and entertainment.
The less drastic solution is reflected in the FCC’s two existing efforts to balance legitimate consumer interests with the need to maintain the Internet’s dynamism. The FCC’s 2005 Open Internet Policy Statement and its 2010 Open Internet Order both struck that balance.
Yes, the DC Court of Appeals overturned parts of the 2010 Order. But 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.
Belligerents making hyperbolic arguments from opposing corners dominate too many debates in Washington. Ensuring an open Internet doesn’t have to be one of those fights. Nobody wants to turn what we used to call the “information superhighway” into a four-lane toll road with federal monitors stationed at every onramp. Nor should there be an HOV lane only accessible for the wealthiest that leaves the rest of us stuck in a slow moving traffic jam.
Now is the time for common sense rules that are fair to consumers and companies and ensure high speed Internet access to individuals and entrepreneurs without the unintended consequences of 1930’s rotary phone era regulation.
Monday, June 23
At The Hill, Kate Tummarello reports that House Republicans want to take the net neutrality issue out of the FCC’s hands:
Republicans on a House panel want the country’s antitrust regulators, not its telecom regulators, to take the lead on net neutrality.
During a Friday hearing held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust Law, Republicans questioned the need for net neutrality regulation from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
“The Internet has flourished precisely because it is a deregulated market” and should be kept open through “vigorous application of the antitrust laws,” House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said.
The idea, according to Tummarello, is for the Federal Trade Commission to take the reigns:
“As regulatory proceedings continue to stretch on, a question I have is whether there might be a more efficient and more effective way to safeguard against potential discriminatory behavior than federal rulemaking,” Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said in his opening statement.
“That is where antitrust law comes in.”
Friday, June 20
We’ll find out soon enough whether the U.S. soccer team can survive the World Cup’s “Group of Death” with two strong European competitors (England and Germany). But for broadband, it’s clear who’s winning: the U.S.
It’s basic economics that if we as a society want less of something—for instance, smoking—we will impose a tax on it or restrict it by regulation, and consumption will fall. The opposite is also true: if we want more of something, deregulation and lower taxes will, by the operation of markets, lead to more of it.
The price, availability and quality of broadband follows the same rules. If we want more and faster broadband—and we do—then excessive and inappropriate regulation of broadband, such as some activists’ proposals for “Title II” common carrier regulation, is the wrong way to go. On top of all the legal and technological problems Title II would bring, we can confidently predict that it would sharply inhibit broadband investment.
A new paper from Christopher Yoo of Penn Law School’s Center for Technology Innovation and Competition takes a fresh look at the data and shows that the US is far ahead of Europe on virtually every relevant metric of broadband deployment. The reason, not surprisingly, is that the US regulates broadband lightly while European countries impose investment crippling wholesale unbundling requirements on broadband providers.
Res ipsa loquitur, the lawyers like to say, and Yoo says exactly that: “The data speak for themselves, and the empirical evidence confirms that the United States is performing much better than Europe in the high-speed broadband race[.]”
Look at the data from different angles (as CTIC’s interactive micro-site permits), and it tells the same story: access to next-generation networks (over 25 Mbps), the U.S. leads 82% to 54%; access to next-generation networks in rural areas, 48% to 12%; and LTE coverage, 86% to 27%. Unsurprisingly given these figures, the U.S. (meaning U.S. network operators) invests more than twice as much per household as Europe does—$562 vs. $244. Better service, with less packet loss in the U.S.. And entry-level broadband prices are lower here, too.
Why is the U.S. winning? It all comes down to fundamentally different models of regulation and the incentives each provides for investment: Europe relies on regulations that treat broadband as a public utility and foster competition among multiple leased access providers on incumbent provider platforms. New entrants lease incumbents’ facilities at wholesale cost (also known as unbundling). The U.S. regulatory light- touch has generally left buildout, maintenance, operation and modernization of Internet infrastructure to private companies and focuses on promoting facilities-based competition, in which new entrants are expected to construct their own networks.
The regulatory structure government chooses directly affects broadband availability, quality and price.
Focus on that investment statistic for a minute: there’s over twice as much investment per household in the U.S. as in Europe, which leads to more coverage.
We’ve already had a glimpse of what can happen if the U.S. government tries a different path, that of Title II regulation. When the FCC announced in 2010 that it was considering Title II reclassification of broadband as a possible approach to ensuring network neutrality, there was an immediate negative effect on the stock prices of the network operators who were deploying broadband across the country. On average, the market capitalization of the four largest ISPs in the United States lost a combined $18 billion and the market value of one of those entities dropped 15% overnight. The ability of these companies to acquire the financing necessary for aggressive broadband deployment diminishes as their value in the market declines. This was but one early sign of the kinds of problems that broadband providers will encounter in continuing their world leading broadband deployment performance if the FCC turns to Title II regulation.
So the light regulatory model of the U.S. brings greater adoption, more investment, and faster speeds, while due to the heavy-handed leased access regime on which Europe built its policies, the continent is now lagging far behind.
None of this is surprising to anyone who knows a bit of economics, but it’s a useful reminder as the FCC considers what sort of rules would best achieve our nation’s broadband goals. We can ill afford to neglect history and economics by imposing telephone-era, public utility regulation that will dampen investment at precisely the moment when carriers will have to undertake even greater expenditures to acquire spectrum in the upcoming incentive auction and then spend more to deploy facilities to bring wireless broadband to the entire US population at 4G levels. As Yoo writes, “we have a real-world basis for assessing the impact of imposing telephone-style regulation on the Internet[.] As regulators in the United States contemplate rules for next-generation networks, it would be wise to consider how going down the path of stiff telephone-era regulation has fared elsewhere.”
Because whatever happens in Brazil, the U.S. has already beaten Europe in the broadband competition for economic growth.
Thursday, June 19
Today marks the 80th anniversary of the 1934 Communications Act. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Act was basically a shuffling of the Federal Radio Act of 1927 and the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910, which covered telephone service. From Wikipedia:
The stated purposes of the Act are “regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges, for the purpose of the national defense, and for the purpose of securing a more effective execution of this policy by centralizing authority theretofore granted by law to several agencies and by granting additional authority with respect to interstate and foreign commerce in wire and radio communication, there is hereby created a commission to be known as the ‘Federal Communications Commission’, which shall be constituted as hereinafter provided, and which shall execute and enforce the provisions of this Act.”
While the 1934 Act served America quite well for over six decades, in 1996 it was given a much-needed overhaul to better reflect the technology of the day. But even that overhaul now seems like a bit of a relic, as today’s current broadband age — both wired and wireless — has completely revolutionized America’s communications.
With some activists currently calling for the FCC to reclassify broadband services under Title II, it’s worth remembering that Title II was originally part of the 1934 Act. In other words, those pushing for reclassification of broadband services want the FCC to use an 80 year old law to govern the modern Internet.
Rather than brute force a law on the books since before World War II, a smarter way to govern today’s Internet — and whatever shape the Internet takes in years to come — would be to once again revisit the Communications Act. A lot has changed in 80 years, after all, and relying on such an outdated framework for today’s technology could very easily do much more harm than good.
Friday, June 13
At today’s FCC open meeting, Chairman Tom Wheeler recused himself from the Commission’s work on the transition to all-IP networks. As Kate Tummarello of The Hill reports:
At the agency’s June open meeting on Friday, Wheeler announced that he would not participate in the agency’s work on this topic, citing his tenure on the Board of Directors for telecom company EarthLink, which recently filed to participate.
Wheeler served on EarthLink’s Board of Directors for ten years before resigning last year after the Senate confirmed him to be FCC chairman.
Friday, June 06
With the net neutrality debate once again on the front burner, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Jim Cicconi has penned a lengthy post at the company’s Public Policy Blog to break down how reclassifying broadband service under Title II is a bad idea for just about everyone with a stake in the open Internet. An excerpt:
Title II would not prohibit the creation of fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet — that is clear in the plain language of the law, not to mention 80 years of FCC precedent and court decisions. Arguments to the contrary are pure fantasy. At a minimum, Title II supporters have to concede that their argument depends on the bank shot that an appellate court will agree (a) that the FCC can change its mind about how the Internet works after the Supreme Court has validated its prior decision; and (b) the FCC can then ignore the plain language of the statute and 80 years of precedent to determine that the prohibition of “unjust and unreasonable” discrimination actually means it can prohibit any discrimination. And think of all the additional proceedings that will be needed to unpack where we draw the lines between information services “haves” and telecommunications services “have nots.” If that is the road we choose to travel, the investment uncertainty alone will have a massive negative impact on American broadband deployment for years to come.
There’s another important argument against Title II — invoking it would risk massive collateral damage to many, if not most, U.S. Internet companies. Title II could turn every edge or content company into a common carrier for at least part, if not all, of their services.
Cicconi goes on to argue that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler already has a way to ensure an open Internet without the regulatory hammer of Title II:
Section 706, as interpreted by the court and explained by Chairman Wheeler, does provide a path. It’s a path AT&T supports. For one, it has already been blessed as a valid source of jurisdiction to address the kinds of concerns articulated by Chairman Wheeler and others throughout the current debate. In upholding Section 706 authority, the Verizon court gave the FCC wide latitude to prohibit conduct that would deter broadband investment. And the approach that Chairman Wheeler has proposed would clearly prevent practices like paid prioritization that we feel would change the fundamental nature of the Internet.
Thursday, June 05
Via David Gelles and Nichael J. De La Merced at The New York Times, the long rumored merger between Sprint and T-Mobile is starting to heat up:
Sprint and T-Mobile have talked about a combination for years but continued to put it off, each preoccupied with other deals, and concerned about scrutiny from antitrust regulators.
But in recent days, the two sides have settled on the terms of a $32 billion deal that is likely to be announced this summer, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.
Under the terms of the deal, which are still preliminary, Sprint would acquire T-Mobile for about $40 a share in cash and stock, a 17 percent premium to Wednesday’s price.
Between this, the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger and, to a lesser extent the proposed AT&T-DirecTV coupling, the DOJ and FCC have a lot of work ahead of them.
Tuesday, June 03
Via Kate Tummarello at The Hill, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have some ideas for how the FCC can successfully update an existing program to bring more technology to schools:
A bipartisan group of lawmakers laid out recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission to modernize its E-Rate program to fund technology in classrooms.
“The funding priorities must reflect the changing nature of the Internet, so that our classrooms and students have access to today’s technology,” a group of 46 lawmakers told the FCC in a letter on Monday.
“America’s school and libraries are in need of a technological update to accelerate next-generation education reforms, support teachers and enhance student learning through universal access to high-speed broadband.”
Thursday, May 29
The latest flare up in the never-ending net neutrality debate involves the possibility that the FCC could regulate Internet service under Title II. At The Hill, Kate Tummarello reports the very idea of Title II has already inspired work on a bill from House Republicans:
A new House Republican bill would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from going forward with a proposal for stronger regulations on Internet service providers.
Late Wednesday, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) — vice chairman of the House Commerce subcommittee on communications — introduced a bill that would keep the FCC from reclassifying Internet providers to treat them more like traditional phone companies, which are heavily regulated.
“The Internet has remained open and continues to be a powerful engine fueling private enterprise, economic growth and innovation absent government interference and obstruction,” Latta said in a statement announcing his bill.
Tuesday, May 27
Speaking of the FCC, Julian Hattem at The Hill reports that Senate Republicans aren’t yet going to step into the Commission’s latest foray into the net neutrality debate:
The top GOP senators on the Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee overseeing the FCC both told The Hill this week that they don’t expect a rider preventing the commission from moving forward with the effort.
“I don’t see any possibility of that. I really don’t,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), the ranking member of the Financial Services and General Government subcommittee.
“It’s not there yet,” added the top Republican on the full committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.). “But you know, this is early.”