A handful of Senate Democrats (and others, like FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel) have made some headlines lately about 50,000 consumer complaints “missing” from the Restoring Internet Freedom (RIF) rule making docket. This PR stunt – designed as part of the last-ditch efforts to delay the FCC’s upcoming RIF vote next week – was inspired by the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and its call to get informal complaints into the RIF docket, ostensibly to “prove” the need for Title II Net Neutrality.

What you may not know about the complaints is this: The NHMC commissioned a report on the 50,000 “missing” complaints, and it turns out that, well, the 50,000 “missing” is more like 20,000. (Even that residual number is highly suspect in this PR-spin nonsense)

It seems that approximately two-thirds of the “missing” complaints are irrelevant for this exercise. The researcher who wrote the study threw out over 30,000 complaints because nearly 26,000 of them (relating to data caps) were connected with “previous consumer advocacy campaigns;” and close to 9,000 were related to privacy matters, implicating third-party issues outside the control of ISPs. This left the researcher with a sample of 20,000 “missing” complaints not tainted by what she terms as “noise.”

Let’s be clear – the complaint process is no proxy for rule making comments, the latter of which has its own, well-worn system (e.g., the ECFS) to gather input from the public.  And, last I checked, millions used the ECFS to comment on the RIF.

The FCC has noted that the informal complaint process is used to identify trends in the marketplace; it is not a direct enforcement tool. Anyone can file a complaint on a range of Internet or other communications issues, such as broadcasting, cable, etc. But it will not result in a fine by the FCC for “infractions.”  Generally, parties to any given dispute work to resolve their differences, with the FCC mainly facilitating those communications. Most all complaints get resolved.  If a resolution doesn’t occur, however, one could take the unresolved complaint further to the formal complaint process, which is essentially a full court hearing.  This is rare.  So rare, in fact, that no Net Neutrality complaints have ever gone forward at the Commission.

The initial Genachowski Net Neutrality order in 2010 laid out the informal / formal Net Neutrality complaint process. That system was developed further by the 2015 Open Internet Order and the Wheeler Commission. With all the noise that the sky is falling and Net Neutrality violations are everywhere (or could be, that is), where’s the avalanche of formal complaints demonstrating the “problem” (that is, the real stuff)?

Just like the “missing” complaints – it ain’t there.

The FCC has all the information it needs to make an informed decision on its proposed rule.  The delay tactics used by the Net Neutrality lovers are as empty as their 50,000 “missing” complaints.

Let’s turn down that noise.

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The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org:

Alexandria, VA, December 2, 2017 – MediaFreedom congratulates the U.S. Senate for passing its tax reform package early this morning. This legislation will help American companies of all sizes remain competitive, innovative and strong; and it will put more money back into the hands of hardworking Americans. For the communications industry, this combination will help inspire the roll-out and adoption of new communications infrastructure and technology for the marketplace, making consumers and society better off.

MediaFreedom stands ready to help the Senate and House narrow their differences in the coming days, and we look forward to a bill for the President’s signature that will make Americans more prosperous for years to come.  This work, along with the FCC’s pending Restoring Internet Freedom rule making – which, it is anticipated, will repeal Net Neutrality laws constricting infrastructure investment and ecosystem innovation – will help America grow again.

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Yesterday, FCC chairman Ajit Pai began circulating among his other Commissioners a draft of the pending Restoring Internet Freedom rule to be voted on in December. Though details are few, this is what we know from the Chairman’s own words:

“…Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate…[M]y proposal will [also] put the federal government’s most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers’ online privacy…returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world…”

This means that Obama-created, Title II-driven Net Neutrality rules are over. They were in-apt from the start, and since their enactment over two years ago, they have actually resulted in less investment to build-out broadband networks – the exact opposite of the rules’ primary goal.

From here on forward, light-touch regulation will now (again) make sure that Internet behaviors – including those of Silicon Valley – benefit Americans.

Hooray! This development is a huge win for consumers, society, innovation and free speech.

In unshackling the Internet from the prior Commission’s utility regulations for the Internet, the FCC has placed its faith in the advance of technology, open competition, industry best practices, consumer-oriented transparency tools and present federal law to police the Internet ecosystem. In doing so, it will allow welfare-enhancing tactics – such as reasonable paid priority – to deliver life-bettering advancements to the marketplace. Further, by removing confiscatory Title II regulation, new investment will flood the ecosystem, hastening innovative services – such as wireless 5G and the Internet of Things – and boosting ubiquitous, affordable broadband access for all.

Finally, the Chairman’s draft removes Uncle Sam’s boot from the the throat of communicators, excising government from Internet content regulation. At its heart, regulatory Net Neutrality was always-ever a “media reform” tactic designed to shepherd “approved content” to the masses for their consumption. The law, however, is a prior restraint on speech, denying the free association of communicators to work together in mutually beneficial ways to deliver their communications offerings to customers as they see fit. Regulatory Net Neutrality essentially grafts 80 years of broadcast censorship onto the Internet, limiting who can speak and how. Quite simply, it is not Uncle Sam’s place to make sure Americans receive “better” information; that role has been barred by the First Amendment. Chairman Pai’s proposal accords with constitutional constraints on government which protect the individual liberties of Americans. This will foster free speech, not deter it.

This is all good. That said, one hopes that the FCC’s work to restore Internet freedom will remind Congress of the need to end the Chevron ping-pong game which brought us here, and thus expeditiously act to create a lasting solution to further guide the development of the Internet.

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Here are the perils of crony-driven policy as exemplified by Senator Al Franken.

In the run-up to the Obama-Wheeler-Sohn Net Neutrality rule in the Summer of 2014, Senator Franken led the chorus, singing the praises of Google (and, by extension, Silicon Valley) and “simple” Net Neutrality – a policy designed by progressives to help, er, bring about the next Google by beating back “evil,” “gatekeeping” ISPs.

Leader of the Net Neutrality Chorus, Senator Al Franken.

Those of us against the FCC’s shenanigans have always known that the past two Commission’s “ISPs-are-the-real-gatekeepers” spin was intentionally off key: Google and the other dominant platforms write the sheet music, which the industry must play in order to exist in the Internet orchestra. Franken and his congressional chorus knew that, too, but were willing to turn a deaf ear to that as Net Neutrality was being composed because of Silicon Valley’s “support” of his Party.

By this Fall 2017, however, the Senator has started singing a different tune.

Last week, Franken got his new fake book from the Party, with the gospel hymns for Google and “simple” Net Neutrality all torn out of the songbook.

Notes Franken in the Guardian:

“As tech giants become a new kind of internet gatekeeper, I believe the same basic principles of net neutrality should apply here: no one company should have the power to pick and choose which content reaches consumers and which doesn’t. And Facebook, Google, and Amazon – like ISPs – should be ‘neutral’ in their treatment of the flow of lawful information and commerce on their platforms.

“Following years of hard work and dedication, we found in the Open Internet Order a strong and time-tested framework to protect net neutrality. While we fight to preserve the Order, we must now begin a thorough examination of big tech’s practices in order to secure the free flow of information on the internet.”

Sure, there’s an argument to be made that when dominant companies swing their market power around like a hammer, hurting consumers, it should be dealt with. But, we’ve never needed Net Neutrality to address that; antitrust law works fine (for the entire ecosystem, ISPs included). Of course, that’s not immediately helpful to progressives and their revised, anti-corporate agenda, all of which has been fashioned primarily to compete for votes in the ’18 midterm elections, and ’20 presidential vote.

Al Franken’s fealty to the beat of party politics reveals that the underlying policy has never been more than a crude tactic to remain in power and control people. Sadly, though, it is a willfully tone-deaf corruption, one which undermines free enterprise and its necessary checks on government, as well as (and perhaps most importantly) individual liberty, too.

Crony cacophony serves no one but its crooked conductor and those who direct his arbitrary baton. It is a refrain that must stop, or America’s Internet economy is doomed.

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MediaFreedom Urges FCC to Preempt State and Local Laws to Restore Internet Freedom

November 14, 2017

MediaFreedom submitted the following letter to the FCC: November 13, 2017 Marlene H. Dortch Secretary Federal Communications Commission 445 12th Street, SW Washington, DC 20554 VIA ECFS                Re: Restoring Internet Freedom, WC Docket No. 17-108 Dear Ms. Dortch: News reports and other sources reveal that the pending Restoring […]

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Statement: MediaFreedom Supports Congressional Efforts to Reform Tax Code

November 5, 2017

The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org: Alexandria, VA, November 5, 2017 – MediaFreedom welcomes the House’s initial efforts at reforming the tax code. To be sure, the devil’s in the details, but at first glance, it appears that low to middle income earners may come out ahead with the […]

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Localities: Defeating Moore’s Law, Technological Progress, Better Lives for Americans

November 1, 2017

Moore’s law – which states that roughly every two years computing power doubles – is being defeated by local officials. How? Cellphone reception in our area has been spotty for years. When at home, I get around this by using wi-fi assist, which connects my calls seamlessly.  Elsewhere  – especially near the local military base […]

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Sohn: Net Neutrality Regs Are the “Most Progressive Communications Policies in History”

October 20, 2017

In remarking on Julius Genachowski’s Net Neutrality Order in 2011, then Public Knowledge’s Gigi Sohn exclaimed, “The commission is in no way regulating the Internet. It was merely attempting to return to a modest level of traditional authority needed to safeguard the rights of Internet users.” (Emphasis added) But, it was all a bunch of […]

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Daniel Berninger: SCOTUS Must Address OIO & End FCC’s Reclassification Ping Pong

October 18, 2017

Daniel Berninger is Founder of VCXC, and was an intervenor in the appeal to overturn the FCC’s 2015’s Open Internet Order. Earlier this month, he asked the Supreme Court to take a look at the OIO. Berninger believes the OIO is specious and is especially offensive to the the First Amendment, which he notes the […]

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Google, Facebook and Twitter Should Ween Themselves off of the Section 230 Subsidy

October 11, 2017

A colleague of mine, Fred Campbell, recently wrote a piece in which he posits, “Maybe We Should ‘End The Internet As We Know It’.” In the piece he notes: If only the internet we know weren’t such a mess. Policies that net neutrality advocates are clamoring to preserve have facilitated the internet’s roles in undermining […]

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