The Left is in full freakout mode regarding reports that Donald Trump’s FCC transition team appears to be recommending “stripping” the Commission of its competition and consumer protection powers after Trump takes office.

People like Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld say the plan – which ostensibly shares many similarities with a paper written two years ago by two members of the FCC’s transition team – represents “a declaration of war on the most basic principles of universal service, consumer protection, competition, and public safety that have been the bipartisan core of the Communications Act for the last 80+ years.”

Did they even bother to read the short paper before wigging-out?

Put away the pitchforks, Harold.

Using the paper’s own words:

First, the historical silo-based approach to communications regulation is inapposite to the modern communications ecosystem. Second, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC,” or “Commission”) functions are largely duplicative of those of other agencies. It is therefore our view that Congress should revise the approach taken by the Communications Act, eliminate the silo-based structure and replace it with a technology-neutral, competition-oriented approach. Concurrent with this process, Congress should rationalize the Commission, apportioning the majority of its functions and resources to its sister agencies. In particular, Congress should consider merging the FCC’s competition and consumer protection functions with those of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), thus combining the FCC’s industry expertise and capabilities with the generic statutory authority of the FTC. More broadly, it is our view that many of the important functions and resources currently housed in the Commission can be redeployed – not eliminated – to yield a more coherent and streamlined regulatory edifice that would more effectively serve the goals of consumers, competitors, and Congress.

According to the paper, doing so would:

Rationalize and strengthen competition oversight and consumer protection regulation.

Eliminate the duplication, confusion, and cost associated with multiple regulatory agencies with
overlapping jurisdictions.

Reduce the regulatory burden on industry in complying with outdated rules and duplicative
obligations.

Clarify consumer protection procedures with one point of contact for complaints and redress.

Facilitate efficient development of evidenced-based policies that promote innovation throughout the Internet ecosystem, enhance economic growth, and maximize consumer welfare.

The Comm Act is an octogenarian.  No simple face-lift or botox can change its creaky bones; it can’t keep up with converged markets using its regulatory walker built in 1934.

America voted for Donald Trump, not FDR. It’s time to move on and make our administrative state great (or certainly better) for American consumers and innovators.  The transition team’s congressional plan – if even close to what’s been reported – would go a long way towards doing that.

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

Alexandria, VA, January 12, 2017 – Yesterday, the FCC’s wireless bureau released a report, which concluded that some popular zero-rated (a.k.a. free data) wireless offerings could, maybe, perhaps somehow, harm consumers and “competition” somewhere, in some time warp, down the road. The bureau’s less-than-zero statement was nothing more than regulatory chum, designed to hit zero-raters below the belt for one final time before President Obama’s anti-consumer FCC leaves town next week.

Voters in November cast their ballots against this “sky-is-falling, everything successful broadband providers do could be downright bad for consumers” mindset. “Could be bad” government regulation stinks. It breeds arbitrary and capricious rule that shackles markets and innovation. It puts agencies and cronies – not marketplace dynamics – in control, which rarely ends well for average consumers.

Thankfully, the report – President Obama’s one last, sad deliverable to Silicon Valley – will be ignored by the next FCC. As soon-to-be majority Commissioner Ajit Pai stated yesterday, it “does not reflect the views of the majority of Commissioners,” noting further that “this latest regulatory spasm will not have any impact on the Commission’s policymaking or enforcement activities following next week’s inauguration.”

Silicon Valley’s gravy train has finally come to a halt. The subsidy has ended. Hopefully, as Commissioner Pai alluded to, the new Trump FCC will move back to truly light-touch regulation of the U.S. communications marketplace, allowing companies to serve consumers with beneficial offerings like zero-rated services instead of having to fend off market-distorting, regulatory arbitrage interposed by unelected, petty bureaucrats and crony “competition.”

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The other day in The Hill, John Davis – an ostensibly well-connected IT contractor who wants to help the federal government manage its data during rulemakings – claimed:

“…it ended up taking nine months and an estimated $50 million for the FCC to consider the entire [Net Neutrality] comment dataset…” (emphasis and brackets added by me)

That’s huge. But, could it be?

Boring down into the details, it appears that Davis’ figure was built on some shaky assumptions. It focuses mainly on “considering” the comment dataset, making an overly-broad calculation that all of the FCC’s “700” lawyers, among others, were working exclusively from May 2014 (the beginning of the comment period) to February 2015 (the issuance of the ObamaNet Net Neutrality rule), and nothing else, to pour through the comments.

That simply could not have occurred.

First of all, other “lawyer work” was going on at the agency during this period – a good bit, such as on Universal Service, spectrum, consumer protection, broadcasting, cable, public safety, etc., split among the agency’s fewer than 600 (not 700) lawyers. Yes, Net Neutrality sucked the air out of the room, but all agency work did not stop in favor of that needless rulemaking.

Moreover, though approximately four million Net Neutrality comments did pour into the Commission during this period, only about 1,000 were substantive / unique, demanding real analysis by FCC personnel. The rest was a counting exercise because it was either form letters sent in via digital grassroots campaigns, or simply junk, having nothing to do with the proposed rule itself.

I believe Davis’ calculation doesn’t hold water. An FCC spokesperson I contacted concurred, stating in an e-mail to that the “number is not remotely accurate.” In a follow-up, however, I asked the official what the cost to develop the rule actually was – a broader question beyond just digesting comments.

After repeated requests, he failed to offer any number.

All this begs the question: What was the cost to the American taxpayer to develop the final Net Neutrality rule? [click to continue…]

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Passing Net Neutrality in a way that was not offensive to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs always depended on ensuring that the law “wouldn’t regulate the Internet.”

Here are a couple of examples, taken from when Julius Genachowski and his partisan Commissioners jammed Net Neutrality down the Internet’s throat in late 2010:

An FCC official / spokesman – “Net neutrality is about preventing anyone from regulating the Internet.”

(Then) Representative Ed Markey – “Net neutrality is not about government regulation of the Internet. It’s about fair rules of the road for the companies that now control access.”

(Then) Public Knowledge’s Gigi Sohn – “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.”

Sure it doesn’t, guys.

I shot the short clip below at an October 2011 Hill briefing. In it, Jeff Eisenach lays out the clearest case ever why Net Neutrality regulates not just ISPs, but the entire Internet ecosystem.

Starting at 30-seconds into the clip, Eisenach notes:

“You know, we’re in a policy disequilibrium, right? So, if you read the Commission’s Net Neutrality Order, it says “We believe that we not only have the authority, but are obligated to ensure a free and open Internet ecosystem,” okay? And it defines the Internet ecosystem specifically as including content, applications and devices. The Commission is saying, “Okay, we’ve got the broadband thing; we’ve got that under control. But, you know, it’s really just part of the rest of this market, and we’ve got to make sure that that whole thing develops in a way that we’re happy with.

“So, what it’s really doing, I think, is it’s getting ready to assert authority over the whole operation. And implicitly, it’s doing that. I mean, the Net Neutrality Order is as binding on Apple as it is on Comcast, right? It is equally forceful in saying ‘Apple, you can’t do the following contract with Comcast,’ as it is in saying to Comcast ‘You can’t do the following contract with Apple.’” (Emphasis added)

Quick translation: By banning paid priority for ISPs (among other restrictions), potential non-ISP partners can’t “play” either, no matter how bad they want to (and they do). Consequently, the rule prohibits the behavior of more than solely ISPs. It regulates the behavior of the Internet’s edge, too, meaning the whole kit and caboodle is swept up by the law.

That is a far cry from the spin which falsely averred “The commission is in no way regulating the Internet.”

Eisenach and his partners on the FCC transition team have earned the moniker “Net Neutrality haters.” If telling the simple truth is “hateful,” get ready for the Trump FCC to be one angry place for the next eight years.

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We Should Applaud Facebook’s (Unwise) Censorship

December 17, 2016

Press reports have it that in Facebook’s efforts to crack down on so-called “fake news,” the company will be outsourcing “fake news” “fact checking” (two loaded terms) to a consortium of mainstream news outlets led by the left-leaning Poynter institute. That’s fine, even if it means that the real goal is to silence disruptive (i.e., […]

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Twitter Scores a Touchdown, but Net Neutrality Keeps ISPs at the 20-Yard Line

December 11, 2016

Did you watch the Raiders-Chiefs game on Twitter on Thursday night? Sure, it was available on TV and via other paid online venues. But, if you can’t get over-the-air TV, or don’t pay for online NFL games, Twitter got it to you – likely on your convenient smartphone – with a great picture, and for […]

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Want Fake News – Just Look to the FCC

December 7, 2016

There’s been a lot of talk about so-called fake news and its effect on the outcome of the election. As the mainstream media explains it, Americans are just too splintered, too “extreme,” and too stupid to view news critically – especially what’s in their Internet news feeds – in order to make up their own […]

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Take a Deep Breath – Zero-rating Benefits Consumers

November 30, 2016

With news that AT&T plans to offer zero-rated content through its DirecTV Now offering, Net Neutrality zealots have come unhinged. According to one hyperbolic lede, “AT&T just declared war on an open internet (and us).” Sure it has. Those supporting the FCC’s dubious Open Internet Order believe that the new service crosses the line and […]

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Close the FCC? The Real Radical Ain’t Mark Jamison. Rather, It’s the Alt-Left That’s the Outlier.

November 24, 2016

I’ve been watching with bemusement the alt-left’s freak-out over the Trump appointment of market-based economist Mark Jamison to co-chair the FCC transition team. In particular, one article – FCC Vetter Jamison: Do We Need an FCC? – has their undies in a big wad. In brief, Jamison suggests that in a time when communications competition […]

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Video: A Regulator’s Guide to Zero Rating and Free Data – Part 3, Price Discrimination

November 21, 2016

Telecoms have long practiced “discrimination” when serving their customers’ varying needs. This is a good thing, though. Volume discounts, 1-800 numbers, flat-rate vs. metered pricing, business vs. residential pricing, and city vs. rural pricing, among others, are all examples of how phone companies sought to differ their offerings for their customers. Still, many are confused […]

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