Former Google proxy lobbyist Gigi Sohn, seen outside the FCC in July 2014, supporting pro-Net Neutrality activists, as FCC official.

FCC official (and former Google proxy lobbyist) Gigi Sohn, seen outside the FCC in July 2014, happily supporting pro-Net Neutrality activists.

Apparently it pays pretty handsomely to have well connected people in important places.

Take, for instance, the “consumer activist” Google-front group Public Knowledge. Its two most recent IRS filings have quite a lot to say about connections. More specifically, since its former President, Gigi Sohn, left to go over to the FCC as Special Counsel / Consigliere to Chairman Tom Wheeler in late 2013, its gross receipts jumped 244%, from $1,679,234 in 2013, to 4,099,221 in 2014. Posting an even greater gain, its “Part VIII line f” grants jumped 345%, from $881,657 in 2013, to $3,045,910 in 2014.

And, gosh, what’s happened since. Well, funny enough, some pretty significant bucket list items of PK / Google have happened, or are well in process – like Net Neutrality, Unlock the box, and ISP privacy restrictions, among others.

Shocked? Don’t be. Saddened? Yes.  Google and its proxies are thick as thieves in the current administration, to which this article attests. A recently completed Senate investigation also outlines some disturbing connections, as the White House sought to “influence” the “independent” FCC’s Net Neutrality rule. And, of course, Gigi’s “agenda” has long-been documented, as can be seen in this Watchdog piece.

It’s just another example that cronyism – not fair play – pays.  And then some.

_________

p.s. – the CPI for all items is currently .9%.  How do I get a 244% raise?  Just askin’.

{ 0 comments }

The other day, Public Knowledge’s Gene Kimmelman let slip that access and control of viewer data is the “dirty little secret” underlying the FCC’s so-called proposal to unlock the cable box.

Well, duh.

But it’s bigger than that, of course.

The proposed rule – which compels providers to disaggregate program discovery, security and video programming into three separate information flows – represents a direct assault on the proprietary business model of cable providers. It is, for all intents and purposes, an open access regime as far reaching as the opening of the local telephone monopolies in the ’96 Act through its detailed and expansive “Development of Competitive Markets” rules, starting at Section 251 and stretching 40 pages to Section 276.

The basis for the proposed rule – i.e., the spare-texted Section 629, which barely exceeds one page in length within the same landmark ’96 Act – is deliberately far more limited and narrow. It most certainly can’t be what the ’96 Act did to bust open the local telephone monopolies, otherwise Congress would have said as much. And, it hasn’t.

According to cable industry analyst Steve Effros, the FCC / Google proposal creates a “solution” to cable box competition that enables companies making unlocked boxes “to re-sell the content and monetize the resultant data in a different package without ever having to negotiate or secure the rights to the individual pieces of the original subscription service.”  If that’s not disturbing enough, Effros also believes the proposal is basically a charade – one which essentially makes cable providers into “dumb pipe” common carriers, but which “many argue the Commission has no statutory mandate to do unless it can somehow link that fundamental policy shift to the issue of ‘competitive set-top boxes.’

A classic regulatory smokescreen.

Anyway, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pooh-poohs all the concern, noting that his / Google’s rules are nothing more than what the agency did in the 60’s and 70’s to break customer premises equipment free from the clutches of the then government-enforced monopoly of Ma Bell. But that result – like the RJ11 jack that plugs into your wall, or an answering machine – wasn’t designed to up-end an entire network or business model. Rather, it was simply to foster competition for those specific static devices at the edge of the network.

Government-compelled competition for the traditional cable box (if it in fact needs to occur, just ask Roku) can be accomplished in far less intrusive ways that do not conflict with the First Amendment, contract law, copyright protections, Congressional prerogative and incentives to innovate.

But that wouldn’t help Google and its free-rider model. And so, the President and the Commission must now accomplish regulatory scienter (again) for their bosses in Mountain View.

How do we unlock that box?

{ 0 comments }

Tom Wheeler has been spinning quite a yarn of late on Netflix’s (and the Commission’s) anti-consumer throttling scandal.

In a Reuters piece from March 31st, the Chairman exclaims:

Video provider Netflix did not violate any U.S. regulations when it “throttled” the picture quality for AT&T and Verizon wireless customers and the FCC has no plans to investigate, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said on Thursday.

Wheeler said Netflix’s conduct was “outside” the FCC’s net neutrality rules adopted last year, because the FCC is not regulating “edge providers” or websites. Asked if the FCC had authority to investigate, Wheeler said that this “is outside the open Internet” order by the Federal Communications Commission.

This is purposely misleading (or incompetent).

The agency has all the power it needs to rebuke Netflix’s abhorrent behavior, either through a direct application of its Section 706 powers to protect and promote the Open Internet (perhaps even through the Net Neutrality Order itself). Or, through its ancillary, Title I powers, tethered to 706 (as per the lessons from the prior Comcast and Verizon Net Neutrality rulings at the DC Circuit).

Moreover, they have a (much publicized) partnership with the FTC to address the deceptive acts of non-common carriers. How’s that working here? Not.

The bottom line is this: The Wheeler FCC won’t do anything because it hasn’t been instructed by the President/Google/Netflix to address the scandal.  Don’t expect that to change…ever.

Quite simply, as long as this Commission is in power, that means state-sanctioned, open season against consumers and competition. Period.

{ 1 comment }

(FCC-filed letter here)

Chairman Tom Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

In late March a WSJ story revealed that as the Net Neutrality debate swirled here in Washington, for five years Netflix intentionally throttled the video quality of the customers of wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon, while leaving the customers of T-Mobile and Sprint unmolested and favored by its discriminatory policy.

Disturbingly, WSJ’s Holman Jenkins, Jr. writes:

“The company did so for good reason—to protect users from overage penalties. But it never told users at a time when Netflix was claiming carriers generally were deliberately slowing its service to protect their own TV businesses—a big lie, it turned out.” (Emphasis added)

You may remember that Netflix played a central role in decrying the potential for throttling, (among other purportedly anti-competitive practices by ISPs) as the Open Internet rules (OIO) were being crafted. The Commission’s majority bought fully into this specious narrative because it supported issuing its rules, noting that:

“…broadband providers have both the incentive and the ability to act as gatekeepers standing between edge providers and consumers. As gatekeepers, they can block access altogether; they can target competitors, including competitors to their own video services; and they can extract unfair tolls. Such conduct would, as the Commission concluded in 2010, “reduce the rate of innovation at the edge and, in turn, the likely rate of improvements to network infrastructure.” In other words, when a broadband provider acts as a gatekeeper, it actually chokes consumer demand for the very broadband product it can supply.”

Netflix’s own comments before the agency in the docket bark this same spiel. But they’re more “nuanced,” too, in particular stating:

“Through an open Internet, the consumer, not the ISP or the edge provider, picks the winners and the losers.” (Emphasis added)

It is the rough equivalent of saying, “Trust us. Netflix would never engage in untoward, gatekeeping acts that could harm the Open Internet. Never. That’s just not our schtick.”

It turns out, however, that these written comments made before the FCC were simply a charade. We know now that Netflix, as an edge provider, was saying one thing in public but doing something quite different in private, actively picking winners (T-Mobile and Sprint) and losers (AT&T and Verizon) in an intentional and anti-competitive effort to skew the competitive wireless marketplace to its liking.

The Commission must properly and forcefully address this matter.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

The Google Zero-Rating Rule

March 21, 2016

Last Thursday, Google’s Youtube announced it was okay with T-Mobile’s “zero-rating” service called Binge On. About a month ago, it was quite a different story.  Then, Google’s lobbyist Barbara van Schewick caterwauled: Binge On violates key net neutrality principles and harms user choice, innovation, competition, and free speech online…….[It] allows some providers to join easily […]

Read the full article →

5 Experts: FCC’s Edge-Centric Policy Is an Intentional (fill in the ______ )

March 15, 2016

This short video – which features industry analysts Fred Campbell, Scott Cleland, Steve Effros, Seton Motley and Mike Wendy – discusses the FCC’s intentional and distorting favoritism of Silicon Valley / the edge as seen in its Net Neutrality law, and in its AllVid / STB and CPNI / privacy proposals.   The video concludes […]

Read the full article →

Of Course Net Neutrality Regulates the Internet

March 8, 2016

Sorry, Free Press, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is entirely correct; he ain’t lying.  Net Neutrality does regulate the Internet – that’s its very reason for being. How do we know?  Well, if an edge provider wanted to engage in some form of differentiation through a “fast lane,” or “paid priority,” or “toll service” – all […]

Read the full article →

Seeking to Sow Unreasonable Delay Stands Against Permission-less Innovation and Consumers

February 29, 2016

Wi-Fi, among other wireless services, came about largely outside the auspices of the FCC, being developed and guided by the marketplace and non-governmental standards processes. It is a prime example of permission-less innovation, which has incalculably enriched communications for consumers and society. As you may know, a number of communications and infrastructure companies – like […]

Read the full article →