Fred Campbell

Recent Posts From Fred Campbell

Sprint’s Decision To Skip Wireless Auction “Highlights The Folly” Of Federal Hubris

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Few industry analysts seemed surprised when Sprint’s new CEO announced “after thorough analysis” that the company won’t participate in next year’s auction of TV broadcast spectrum (known as the “incentive auction”). Analysts already knew that Sprint “has the spectrum it needs to deploy its network architecture of the future.” As a senior telecommunications analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence said in response to the news, “Sprint really has a lot more spectrum than its rivals, so they don’t have that pressing need to get more.”

New Net Neutrality Order Is a Nadir for the First Amendment & Internet Freedom

censored press

If a court affirms the FCC’s ruling that broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) have no right to exercise editorial discretion over Internet transmissions on their networks, the First Amendment could not stop the government from censoring the transmissions of end users on ISP networks.

The First Amendment is premised on a simple idea: Ensuring mass media communications are free of government control is a “precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it.” Though this principle should be obvious, it has been lost in application to the Internet age. In its recent order adopting net neutrality rules and reclassifying Internet access as a common carrier service subject to telephone regulation (“Net Neutrality Order”), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concluded that Internet transmissions on networks operated by broadband Internet service providers are not entitled to protection from government control. According to the FCC, the transmission of Internet communications is not constitutionally protected speech, because it is not “inherently expressive.” The FCC relied on this conclusion to justify its decision to regulate the Internet as if it were a plain old telephone network that transmits only common carrier communications.

ICANN, Meet Your New Master, the FCC

ICANN

 

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an executive branch agency within the Department of Commerce, sparked controversy last year when it announced its intent to transition its oversight of Internet domain names to “the global multistakeholder community.” The controversy is now over. The NTIA no longer has authority to relinquish U.S. control over the Internet domain name system. Though few seem to have realized it, the FCC assumed plenary jurisdiction over Internet numbering in its 2015 net neutrality order reclassifying the broadband Internet as telecommunications (Reclassification Order).

Internet Domain System

The NTIA’s oversight of the Internet domain system includes the assignment of IP numbers and the system for registering domain names. Each device connected to the Internet has a uniquely identifiable IP address. Domain names allow users to identify these numbers using easy-to-understand names (e.g., www.cbit.org) rather than a string of numbers and/or letters. “In this way, it functions similar to an ‘address book’ for the Internet.”

FCC Net Neutrality Ideology Out of Step with Internet Reality

monopoly

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!” Apple advertisement, 1984.

There are now two Internets. The Internet envisioned by the ideology embodied in the FCC’s new net neutrality rules, and the Internet as it exists in reality. The “net neutral” Internet is “a garden of pure ideology” where content companies “are one people … with one cause” and network congestion is merely a figment of the imagination. The real Internet is different — congestion is commonplace and the interests of content owners are divergent.

Government Broadband Plan Would Move US Policy to the Left of Europe

obama broadband

Last year the European Union (EU) ruled that government owned broadband networks are harmful to competition and counterproductive to broadband deployment in markets with private competitors — like the market in Cedar Falls, Iowa where the President spoke.

In a speech preceding the State of the Union Address, President Obama said that preempting state laws prohibiting municipalities from owning broadband networks puts him on the side of “competition.” In reality, it would put US broadband policy somewhere to the left of Europe. Last year the European Union (EU) ruled that government owned broadband networks are harmful to competition and counterproductive to broadband deployment in markets with private competitors — like the market in Cedar Falls, Iowa where the President spoke. Based on thorough data and global economic consensus, the EU issued a regulation that presumptively prohibits municipal broadband deployments.

Congressional Investigation of FCC Spells Trouble for Net Neutrality

neuter the net

Did the FCC chairman change his mind about Title II on his own, or did he capitulate to White House demands to avoid the disgrace of losing his chairmanship? A shocking investigative report by The Wall Street Journal suggests its the latter, and has prompted a pivotal Congressional investigation.

On Friday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee initiated an investigation of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to determine whether the views expressed by the White House potentially had an improper influence on the development of draft net neutrality rules. A letter from the Committee’s Chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler raised concerns about the independence of the agency based on a shocking investigative report by The Wall Street Journal.

The report indicates that the Imperial President improperly influenced Chairman Wheeler’s decision on net neutrality. If that proves to be true, it would provide a reviewing court with grounds to overturn the FCC’s decision as arbitrary and capricious. See DCP Farms v. Neuter, 957 F.2d 1183 (5th Cir. 1992).

Obama Lied: Broadband speeds aren’t faster or cheaper in Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls, Iowa

The President’s claim that Cedar Falls residents can get a gig for less than many Americans pay for premium cable is untrue. His statement that the Cedar Falls Utility network is 100 times faster than the average American Internet connection is, at best, a misleading and contradictory exaggeration, and at worst, absolutely false.

Last week, President Obama said “we’re going to change” — i.e., preempt through federal fiat — state laws that prohibit their municipalities from owning broadband networks. (See embedded YouTube video at 14:00.) The White House supported his preemption plan with this “fact sheet” and a blog post listing “five things you need to know” about the President’s announcement. The problem is, several of the “facts” and other things the White House wants you to know are false, misleading, or contradictory.

Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will hurt our economy

Obama's Internet Takeover

It’s no mystery why the Democratic Party lost big in this year’s election: “The party of economic despair will always lose.” President Obama has presided over six years of lackluster economic growth. “Progressive Democratic policies on Keystone, power-plant closures and oils exports crushed younger, unionized job seekers.”

This week, the President doubled down on his bad economic policies when he announced his plan to impose net neutrality through ‘Title II’ price regulation of Internet broadband providers — a plan that will discourage investment in new communications infrastructure and threaten our economic recovery.

Over the last three years, America’s broadband providers have been the brightest source of economic hope during a particularly gloomy recession.

The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) ranks AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast among the top ten U.S. “investment heroes” — the companies who are investing the most capital in the United States. These three companies alone have invested nearly $125 billion in the U.S. over the last three years, with AT&T and Verizon topping the list on an annual basis.

What Does the Shift Toward Online Video Streaming Mean for Regulatory Policy?

Live Streaming

A flurry of announcements that HBOCBS, and Lionsgate and Tribeca Enterprises will stream video content online has prompted plenty of speculation about its potential success or impending failure. Some claim it proves that all consumers want to purchase video programming on an ‘à la carte’ basis. Others claim that HBO’s online service is “doomed before it even starts.”

I’m inclined to side with Representative Bobby Rush, who is optimistic that the trend will positively impact the video marketplace while remaining mindful that it’s too soon to predict the ultimate fate of à la carte video streaming.

New STELA Bill, Still Not Clean

Recent news reports indicate that the Senate Commerce Committee has dropped the à la carte and Internet provisions in its STELA reauthorization bill (called STAVRA). But the bill is still not ‘clean’.

It appears that the bill still contains a provision codifying the FCC’s decision to prohibit independent TV stations from jointly negotiating retransmission consent agreements. Like the FCC rule, this prohibition would apply in all TV markets, including markets that lack effective competition among pay-TV providers. Under the bill, TV stations in these markets would be required to negotiate separately with a pay-TV operator who Congress has determined possesses monopoly market power. Pay-TV operators with monopoly market power don’t need government help in their negotiations with broadcast TV stations.

The disconnect between the statutory definition of effective competition among pay-TV operators and the bill’s provision prohibiting joint retransmission consent negotiations in all markets is why many urged Congress to adopt a clean STELA reauthorization. Addressing the convoluted framework for video regulation on a piecemeal basis increases the potential for unintended consequences and inhibits the opportunity for robust debate. The holistic approach envisioned by the #CommActUpdate is more likely to result in comprehensive deregulation and produce a level playing field in the video market.

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Fred Campbell

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