FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is recommending that the $49 billion purchase by AT&T of DirectTV go through. But, not without some conditions placed upon AT&T, which include: stronger Net Neutrality rules, such as more restrictions to prevent discrimination against online video competition, and submission of all completed interconnection agreements to the agency; greater gigabit / fiber buildout requirements; and an independent “compliance officer” to ensure that the company doesn’t slide on its deal with the FCC.

AT&T "agrees" to FCC merger conditions.  Americans lose because the free market is subverted once again by the corrupt merger shakedown.

AT&T “agrees” to FCC conditions. Americans lose because the free market is subverted once again by the corrupt purchase / merger approval shakedown.

It is expected that the DoJ will formally approve the deal soon, too.

I have written extensively on this before, so I won’t belabor this point. Reports have it that AT&T “agreed” to all the concessions. Agreed like a hold up. The purchase / merger approval process is a common tactic whereby the FCC (and other agencies) exploit the proposed transaction, and get public policy “wins” – oftentimes unrelated to the direct matter at hand – that it otherwise couldn’t achieve either through the legislative or open rulemaking process.

It is “legal” extortion, which strips the free marketplace out of the picture and supplants it with the “all knowing eyes” of unelected bureaucrats. It is a recipe for unsustainable bubble building. It is a recipe corruption. It is a recipe for arbitrary and capricious rule, which is tyranny.

The American public should kindly help the FCC “agree” to stop this harmful process.

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Poor ole T-Mobile has been spinning a good yarn of late. Its CEO, John Legere, has been singing the little guy blues, demanding that the FCC set aside more “beach front,” low-band spectrum in the upcoming spectrum auction so that its main competitors, AT&T and Verizon, won’t get it. Recently, the FCC has indicated it isn’t going to take T-Mo’s bait and appears to be sticking to its guns by setting aside “only” 30 MHz of spectrum, which AT&T and Verizon can’t bid on, instead of the 40 MHz advocated by T-Mo and the “smaller” mobile carrier industry.  The vote on the plan isn’t until the middle of this month.  So, this could change because the agency is under an immense amount of lobbying pressure from T-Mo, as well as other self-labled, “disadvantaged” wireless carriers.

FatCat2

T-Mo tries to sell its “little guy” story, but it’s as fat a cat as they get here in Washington.

Anyway, let’s dispense with T-Mo’s po’ mouthin’ right now. The company is a fat cat. It doesn’t need Uncle Sam’s help to compete in the wireless space.

Presently, T-Mo’s market cap is $31 billion.

Its parent, Deutsche Telekom, has a market cap of $78 billion.

According to Soros-funded Sunlight Foundation,

German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom, which owns the fourth largest U.S. mobile network provider, T-Mobile USA, spent more money lobbying the U.S. government than any other foreign interest in 2013.

The $11.8 million budget that Deutsche Telekom reported to the Department of Justice put it at the top of a list that included many American firms…”

Take a look at this document from the Federal Election Commission, which shows that over the years T-Mo’s PAC has made has hundreds-upon-hundreds of PAC contributions to legislators and other PACs.

And, check out this document, pulled from the U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database, which reveals T-Mo’s truly massive stable of former and present lobbyists to do its bidding – for things like trying to influence the FCC so that the agency can kneecap T-Mo’s competitors.

Finally, while T-Mo’s Legere crudely tells the little guy that he’s waging battle to save the industry from extinction (or something like that), go to YouTube and see what the company’s telling Wall Street – that is, it’s a vibrant, healthy and growing market leader.

Different story, eh? You bet.

"Small" carrier industry rep Steve Berry at a congressional briefing this spring, crying for more spectrum for his "disadvantaged" companies.

“Small” wireless carrier industry rep Steve Berry at a congressional briefing this spring, crying for more spectrum to subsidize his “disadvantaged” member companies.

The so-called “uncarrier” is about as entrenched in the Washington influence game as any other big corporation here. What it’s asking the FCC to do is simply rig the deck in its favor. This “fighting for the little guy” stuff is a sham. It is a huge corporation wanting to make tons of money for its huge German parent corporation.

As one publication put it, T-Mo isn’t going to suffer any hardship if the FCC doesn’t set aside more spectrum than they already are, “…they just aren’t getting the even sweeter deal that they were pushing for.”

The FCC shouldn’t play favorites. T-Mo – get your paddle ready and bid like the fat cat you really are.

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With Net Neutrality rules now the law of the land, it’s become silly season for those seeking their pound of flesh from a variety of players in the Internet ecosystem. “Complaints” and requests to have the Commission fix a variety of Net Neutrality “violations” have already started arriving at the agency, less than two-weeks after the rule became effective.

This was to be expected.

The 400-page rule, prosecuting the purposely fuzzy concept known as Net Neutrality / “Open Internet”; its “I-know-it-when-I see-it” Internet Conduct standard; its built-in presumption that all U.S. ISPs are somehow serial consumer-beaters; its willful ignorance of the marketplace and the free choices being made there – this all has the FCC itchy with excitement like a jailhouse warden looking to show his inmates who’s really in charge.

All along the FCC watchtower - expect the Internet's new warden to get busy.

All along the FCC watchtower – expect the Internet’s new warden to get busy.

Presciently, Commission Ajit Pai saw this coming last year, noting:

…the legal consequences of moving forward with net-neutrality regulation are sure to wreak havoc on the Internet economy, no matter which legal path we take…[The] FCC [has] virtually unfettered authority to encourage broadband adoption and deployment…If three members of the FCC think that more Americans would purchase broadband if edge providers were prohibited from targeted advertising, could we impose Do Not Track regulations? (Emphasis added)

And right on cue, check-out this filing, sent to the FCC just three days after the Net Neutrality rule went into law:

PETITION FOR RULEMAKING TO REQUIRE EDGE PROVIDERS TO HONOR ‘DO NOT TRACK’ REQUESTS

Expect this never to decrease. As long as we regulate Net Neutrality, all perceived infractions of the “Open Internet” are fair game. The FCC has designed it that way. They invite it.

The supporters of the rule should be careful what they wish for, however. They’re in for a bad case of buyer’s remorse. Soon enough, the FCC will turn its searchlight on them. Google, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft – all the others – think they bought a free ride out of this mess; that only ISPs would feel the heat. But, it’s just a matter of time before the FCC comes after them…

…to protect the “Open Internet.”

Hope they brought their own tin cups.

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Last week, the FCC used its 2010 Net Neutrality transparency rule to fine AT&T $100 million for impairing the speeds of its grandfathered, unlimited mobile data plan users without apparently offering proper notice to them.

Without getting too far into the weeds, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai thinks the FCC is totally off-base here with its arbitrary and capricious determination. As he eloquently explains, AT&T met all of its obligations, and then some, in communicating with the grandfathered unlimited users that their speeds would be slowed down after reaching a certain threshold in each billing cycle.

Notes Pai:

In the end, this case is really just a regulatory bait and switch. The flexibility the agency promised is being replaced by previously unknown and arbitrarily selected obligations. A once-approved network management practice is now out of favor and carries with it a $100 million penalty.

Crazy, right? Yeah. If this is a sign of the FCC’s “clear” Net Neutrality enforcement going forward, then the Internet’s got a problem, big time.

Anyway, I have a real issue with a central line of the FCC fine, which struggles mightily with the (FCC’s own) facts, and which reveals the FCC’s disturbing penchant to kite its numbers when it serves its interests and agenda.

The Commission states:

Since the [Net Neutrality] Transparency Rule went into effect in 2011, the Commission has received thousands of complaints from AT&T’s unlimited data plan customers alleging that they have had their speeds intentionally reduced, and who claim that they purchased an unlimited data plan and are not getting the services that they paid for… (Emphasis added)

What made this claim immediately curious to me is that in November of 2013 I got an FCC official to go on record to say the agency doesn’t specifically tally Net Neutrality complaints. Yet, the above statement stretches back to 2011, which notes thousands of specific Net Neutrality complaints since then.

Where are these complaints (that were never tallied in the first place)? Really, if there were in fact thousands of these complaints, why didn’t the FCC trumpet that? Goodness, it would have been all over the pro-Net Neutrality press, “proving” the need for the rule.

Having hard data showing real harm was always a problem for the FCC because, factually, violating Net Neutrality – whatever that means – never happened. With no real outbreak or problem on its hands, the agency has always been relegated to an algorithmic case of “what ifs,” and “bad stuff could happen,” and the “sky is falling”…

Even the FCC seemingly acknowledges this in a footnote buried 291 pages into the Order, letting slip that:

…[The] CWA and NAACP agree with the Commission’s assertion that one of the primary reasons there have been limited violations of Internet openness is because the Commission has had policies in place to address misconduct. (Emphasis added)

Guess we don’t need the rule, eh?

Oops, too late.

Anyway, the FCC’s own documents reveal something strikingly at odds with its assertion in the fine. Namely, that there have never been thousands of Net Neutrality complaints, let alone thousands of specific “unlimited plan” complaints.

A simple word search of the FCC’s Net Neutrality Order brings up exactly zero “Net Neutrality Complaints,” “unlimited complaints,” or even “thousands of complaints.”

There has to be an explanation for this, right? So, I called over to the FCC and asked (and e-mailed) them this question:

How did you arrive at thousands of unlimited plan complaints when:

In the new Net Neutrality / OIO Order it points only to a “significant concern” raised by these plans;

That “[s]ince the original transparency rule was promulgated, the Commission has received hundreds of complaints regarding advertised rates, slow or congested services, data caps, and other potentially deceptive practices,” encompassing a list that is far broader than just unlimited plans, and which is certainly less than thousands;

That in the Net Neutrality NPRM leading up to the OIO, complaints about “unlimited plans” aren’t even specifically mentioned; and

As late as November 2013, an FCC official said the agency did not tally Net Neutrality complaints individually, suggesting that there weren’t enough Net Neutrality complaints to justify a break-out of that data.

The agency does highlight a handful of complaints in the fine – six, that is. But, they all come from the summer and fall of 2014, which, if you remember, was fraught with numerous pro-Net Neutrality publicity stunts and related activity to get the grassroots out and force the FCC to regulate the Internet under 1934 telephone laws. Many of these have close intervening, activist dogwhistle events / calls to action, which cast further doubt on the probative value of the alleged complaints. More suspicious, however, is the fact that these complainers waited years to lodge their complaints with the agency (they must have really been concerned, right?).

All that said, the thousands of complaints since 2011 just aren’t there.

Confirming this, an FCC official answered my query, stating that there were “over 1,600 complaints” from 2011 to 2014. While it is certainly accurate to state that, if true, over 1,600 could reach above the magic number of 2,000, making the count literally thousands.  But the official gave me this number after more than an adequate opportunity to explain the math.  And, last I checked, that number does not qualify as thousands.  According to that same official, the agency chose more recent examples because they “seemed especially relevant,” reflecting ongoing concerns about AT&T’s practices. In any event, I’d have to FOIA the FCC to see the actual complaints. But, sadly, oddly, conveniently, FCC practice means many of those are anonymous.

We may never know what’s in that mysterious, hyperbolic complaint box over at the FCC.

Funny, that.

__________

So, why should I care? I mean, these are only numbers, right? Big deal. They got stretched. What difference does it make?

Put simply, the FCC has a credibility problem. It wants to be a responsible steward of U.S. communications policy and the public trust, but its abacus is busted, and it’s choosing not to fix it. And, that choice leads to public policy outcomes which more nearly advance political and ideological agendas than anything else.

The thousands of complaints narrative was central to “proving” AT&T is a recidivist over-biller (or something awful like that).

Trouble is, it looks like the FCC is the real recidivist here. This line did not appear out of thin air, but was created and spun by some very skilled lawyers and public relations people over that the FCC. It was designed to embarrass and offend the company. It was designed to get headlines.

It was designed to mislead, like all the others.

Remember how bad a problem Net Neutrality was supposed to be; that “violations” were happening everywhere and America needed new rules to help the FCC police the Internet? Turns out that literally just 4 questionable “violations” ever occurred.

Remember the 4 million supporters of “strong Net Neutrality,” which the agency used to sell the rule? Turns out that even supporters believe the comments for Net Neutrality “might not be what they seem,” especially when a Soros-backed analysis revealed that only 2.5 million were ever received by the agency in the first place, and of those nearly 1 million comments stood firmly against the FCC’s Internet takeover.

Remember when the FCC decried the “fact” that 17% of Americans couldn’t get broadband. Turns out that, just in time for the new Net Neutrality rule, the agency changed the definition of broadband, sliding the goalpost to make it look like ever-fewer Americans could get good Internet access, even though before the arbitrary change nearly 98% of Americans could.

Remember when the agency said that Net Neutrality wasn’t about content control and doesn’t offend the First Amendment? Turns out the agency has outright prohibited every U.S. ISP – all 1,773 of them – from exerting even one shred of editorial control over their facilities because they think ISPs are actually railroad companies instead of communications companies.  With the swipe of a pen, 1,773 communications companies became 0.

Basing public policy on cooked books isn’t right. It’s the hallmark of arbitrary and capricious governance, which is just a short hop away from tyranny. Americans should insist that the FCC ditch its feigned innumerate proclivities. Purposely counting like a 1st grader not only imperils the Internet ecosystem and its benefits for all, it undermines democracy.

You could hire a Descartes. Or, get a new TI calculator. But it changes nothing if your calculations are designed to mislead in the first place.

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Mozilla Typifies The Post-Net Neutrality Downfall

June 16, 2015

I wrote this piece – Mozilla Typifies The Post-Net Neutrality Downfall – which appeared last week in the Daily Caller. _____ For most companies, competing is tough. To do it well, you need to have all the tools you can to beat the others in the marketplace. But Mozilla, proprietor of the open source Firefox […]

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Statement: DC Circuit Court Denies Net Neutrality Stay, but the Order Will Ultimately Fail Court Scrutiny

June 11, 2015

The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org: Alexandria, VA, June 11, 2015 – MediaFreedom is disappointed that the DC Circuit chose not stay the FCC’s radical Net Neutrality Order today. Consequently, the agency’s “clear” 400-page rule will go into effect, and remain so, until at least resolution of the current […]

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I Want My Broadband Pizza Coupon, FCC!

June 10, 2015

I bought a frozen pizza at my local supermarket the other day. It made me think of the President’s new Net Neutrality rules. As is common in most supermarkets, the cashier at checkout handed me a promo coupon with my receipt (pictured below). Like many, I participate in the store’s discount club, wherein I type […]

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Video: FCC’s Perfect, Anti-First Amendment Storm to Control Internet Content, with Fred Campbell

June 5, 2015

The Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology’s Fred Campbell believes the FCC is pulling a fast one over ISPs (and Americans’ liberty) by unconstitutionally compelling third-party access to ISP mass media distribution systems / networks, and in denying ISPs their First Amendment rights to exert editorial control over their networks, by, among other things, banning […]

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Video: “Open” – A Purposely Loose Term, Perfect for Net Neutrality Regulators

June 2, 2015

There is no mention or definition of what the “Open Internet” is in the Communications Act. So, what is it? Is the FCC’s meandering “definition” the end of that discussion? The only definition? A stopping place? A beginning? Even the supporters of Net Neutrality – like Mozilla and Facebook – can’t agree on the “clear” […]

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Metro, Mohammed, Free Speech and Net Neutrality

June 2, 2015

Last week, Washington’s Metro system decided against displaying ads critical of the Muslim prophet Mohammed on some of their trains. Metro did that, they say, out of concern for public safety, believing the trains that had those ads on them from the advocacy group AFDI would become targets for terrorism. Sounds like straight up censorship […]

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