Last week the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing to conduct oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Although there was the typical overblown bickering over the FCC’s action on net neutrality rules taken in recent months under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that one might expect, much of the day’s hearing focused on the poor quality of current broadband coverage maps employed by the FCC in distributing subsidies as well as the need to improve broadband deployment to reach millions of Americans living in rural communities.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission want you — at least if you are an innovator with a solution for preventing illegal Robocalls. On April 23, the FTC and FCC will also co-host a ‘Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo’ at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery in Washington, D.C… It is wonderful that the FTC and FCC are looking for technology solutions to combat the ever increasing problem of Robocalls, but coming up with a technology solution as seems to be desired by the FTC and FCC will be all the more difficult in a world where the USPTO and federal courts are openly hostile to software related innovations.
Without the FCC’s ability to regulate ISPs under Title II common carrier regulations, there have been fears that ISPs could create bundled mobile packages such as are seen in Portugal, a country without the same kinds of net neutrality regulations which were seen in the U.S… And here, we return to the example of erstwhile Jedi knight Mark Hamill. Hamill’s viewpoints on the subject of net neutrality, specifically that FCC Chairman Pai is only acting in service to rich corporations, evidence a great lack of understanding of the net neutrality regime set up under former Chair Wheeler. It’s interesting to note that Hamill essentially sides with Google and the rest of the tech ruling class, companies which have much larger market caps and subscriber bases than the ISPs being regulated by the FCC. Those well-heeled members of the tech ruling class are the same ones that couldn’t be charged for their excessive use of bandwidth; that would be paid prioritization.
On Thursday, December 14th, the commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will convene an open meeting to discuss several subjects, one of which is titled Restoring Internet Freedom. According to news reports, the FCC is likely to approve this order in a 3-2 vote along party lines to return the classification of broadband Internet access service to its prior classification as information service… Despite the high likelihood that the order will be passed by the FCC’s commissioners, or maybe more because of that likelihood, there has been a lot of recent press on how the FCC under current Chairman Ajit Pai has drawn the ire of net neutrality supporters.
Lost in all of this rhetoric over Chairman Pai’s supposed interest in limiting Internet access for Americans are the activities being overseen by Pai which are in the service of restoring Internet access to victims of natural disasters. On October 3rd, the day after Pai was confirmed for his second term, the FCC announced that it would make up to $76.9 million in funding available to aid in repairing wireline and wireless communication networks to restore communications services in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, two U.S. territories which have seen incredible infrastructure damage caused by two major hurricanes in recent weeks. The tech media world’s desire to cast FCC Chairman Pai in the least favorable light possible means that, while the net neutrality issue gets a great deal of coverage from the likes of Ars Technica, The Verge and CNET, the announcement on funding hurricane repairs to restore Internet access barely gets any coverage because it doesn’t fit a narrative. Outside of Reuters and Engadget, American news consumers would be hard-pressed to find details of that initiative.
The Facebooks, Googles and Netflixes of the world, edge providers that provide Internet services via websites but not an Internet connection like ISPs offer, have every reason to support the current net neutrality regime at the FCC because it benefits their bottom line, preventing ISPs from charging them for the incredible amount of bandwidth which they eat up. Proponents of net neutrality have presented the debate to the public as the individual consumer versus the larger ISPs, which has been successful in increasing regulations for ISPs having much smaller subscriber bases and lower market capitalizations than edge providers. While ISPs are prevented from zero-rating, or offering digital content for free to subscribers, under the current net neutrality regime, Facebook and Twitter are increasingly offering live sports broadcasts for free to their users.
Facebook is not the only company seeking to provide content to consumers via their own Internet-based platforms. In early May, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) announced a deal with San Francisco-based social media firm Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) to livestream 20 games per year over multiple seasons on the social media platform. The first WNBA game livestreamed on Twitter on Sunday, May 14th, earned 1.1 million viewers, nearly one-third the average audience watching National Football League (NFL) games streamed on Twitter during the 2016-17 season. Seattle-based Internet e-commerce giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) will livestream Thursday night NFL games during the 2017-18 season for $50 million, a sum which is reportedly about five times what Twitter paid to broadcast NFL games last year. Twitter’s WNBA deal and Amazon’s NFL deal both include promotional efforts on behalf of the Internet companies to promote either sports league.
Between 2014 and 2016, Pai said that the country’s 12 largest ISPs have decreased their spending by $3.6 billion, a drop of 5.6 percent in investment. Pai also cited a letter sent to the FCC from a collection of 22 ISPs, each serving about 1,000 customers or fewer, who argue that the Title II common carrier regulations have affected their ability to obtain financing and have at least slowed the development and deployment of new infrastructure and services… Pai believes that the return to a light-touch framework would benefit Americans in a variety of ways. The lighter regulatory framework should spur broadband deployment towards better Internet service, create jobs for Americans to deploy those networks, boost marketplace competition, end government micromanagement and secure Internet privacy by returning authority to the FTC.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has moved to block broadband privacy rules drafted by the previous administration and set to go into effect in early March… FCC commissioners voted 3-2 last October to adopt broadband privacy rules which limit the amount of data which can be collected by ISPs from their consumers. The rules created an opt-in/opt-out model in which broadband customers must intentionally opt-in to any data collection programs developed by ISPs to collect data considered by the FCC to be sensitive, including geo-location, family size, browsing history or app usage history. Pai was one of two dissenting votes in last October’s decision on the broadband privacy rules, and his dissent reflected his views on harmonizing the FCC’s privacy regime with the FTC.
This week, a patent battle between two American tech giants expands its scope to China, patents covering a well-known multiple sclerosis treatment were invalidated in U.S. district court and Trumpcare emerges as a possible trademarked moniker for the next incarnation of the country’s healthcare system, Disney files a patent application on evaluating human emotions while on amusement park rides, Ajit Pai holds his first open FCC meeting as Chairman and not surprisingly says he wants to reduce regulations, plus a whole lot more.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has unveiled a proposed consumer data privacy rules for Internet service providers (ISPs), which would charge those telecom companies to provide more transparency on data privacy techniques to consumers. The proposal released by the FCC indicates that the agency is trying to apply the privacy requirements of the Communications Act to broadband Internet services to give consumers the choice over how broadband providers can use the data that consumer use of the service generates.