I went to the supermarket the other day and bought some Sanpellegrino soda water. After the purchase at the cash register I got a coupon (below) for a dollar off the next time I would buy that same item at the store.

FCC wants to ban "digital coupons" coming from your ISP.

FCC wants to ban “digital coupons” coming from your ISP.

The coupon is an example of a priority arrangement between the store and the soda maker to get the customer’s attention. In the digital realm, the FCC bans these types of pro-consumer, priority agreements if an ISP offers them.

The coupon is also an analog of what the FCC wants to prohibit next. For ISPs, that is. Not Google, etc. The Commission’s proposed privacy rules want to “protect” you from these “coupons,” proscribing (or making very difficult) the marketing of truthful, pro-consumer communications from your ISP to you based on your use.

“Hey, we noticed you went here recently. Here’s a dollar off to consider these offerings, too.”

Google does it. Others, too. And aggressively at that. But for ISPs, it ain’t gonna’ happen (anymore).

The FCC believes less consumer information is better, I guess. As it applies to businesses dominate by Google, that is.

The FCC believes less consumer information is better…as it applies to businesses competing with Google, that is.

Was something broken for this to be justified?  Nope.  For the past 20 years, the FTC has effectively policed Internet privacy, protecting consumers from actual harm. The system worked.

With its new Net Neutrality powers in hand, however, the FCC now wants in on the action. It wants to censor otherwise First Amendment protected, commercial speech and eliminate a powerful voice in the competitive marketplace by giving a huge, discriminatory advantage to Google over ISPs to pitch Internet consumers.

Whoever heard of people wanting to know about fewer good deals?

Apparently, only the FCC (and Google).

The FCC should give up on its anti-consumer proposal and align itself with the FTC.

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We were on our way home from Florida on the Fourth of July when we pulled into a gas station in the low country of South Carolina. I took this shot (below) behind a fireworks shop after filing up with gas. We made our way back onto I-95, traveling at about 70 mph. I sat in the passenger seat and began to edit the shots I just took to publish on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

For the chosen shot, the workflow went like this; I:

1. Sent the image from my Canon 6D (DSLR camera) to my iPhone6 via the camera’s Wi-Fi and software function on the handset;
2. Edited the picture on my iPhone in Google Snapseed; and
3. Sent the edited picture from my iPhone to Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter via LTE while careening down the highway.

This process took less than 10 minutes, with the image being posted immediately after being sent out from my iPhone.

Why should you care?

Published while driving on I-95, proof that our comms systems are pretty darn awesome.

Published while driving on I-95, proof that our comms systems are pretty darn awesome.

There are people (as in those who pushed for 1934-era utility / Net Neutrality regulations) who say our comms system is somehow broken. I think the process I outlined above belies that. Interestingly, all the tools I used to publish this picture were in place well before the FCC passed its Net Neutrality law. Stated differently, this process didn’t happen because of Net Neutrality; it happened because the ecosystem was already healthy before that law passed.

Can such amazing things continue to progress?

That picture looks ever-more cloudy, out-of-focus and distorted due to the wide aperture of the FCC’s unneccessary Net Neutrality framework.

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Last week’s Net Neutrality ruling highlights the dangers of letting agencies “write” law. The FCC took a loophole in the present law and then went for the brass ring, using legislation that was designed to deregulate communications markets – that’s right, take regulations off the books – to selectively hyper-regulate ISPs with 19th-Century, natural-monopoly law.

(Most of America has a choice of two wired and four wireless broadband providers – hardly a MONOpoly situation – but I digress)

In essence, the Court ruled that for its deference to apply (which would allow the agency’s rule), all the FCC had to do was supply reasons – any – why its Net Neutrality regulation should go forward. Remember those millions of unverified, black box comments pouring into the FCC during the rulemaking process? Well, those reasons, and others that they approve of, will do. Basically, the Court’s inquiry stops there.

Letting agencies like the FCC write the law creates a rough road for all Americans.

We / Congress should stop letting agencies like the FCC write the law – it’s created a rough road that will soon prove impassable (if it already isn’t).

But tell me, what’s reasonable when 80 years of communications law “reasonableness” gets thrown out the window as if it never occurred? When free market arrangements – such as paid priority agreements, which are pro-consumer tools at work in every other core sector of our economy – get banned like they’re contracts of adhesion, or for illegal services like prostitution or drug trafficking, based solely on speculation, not facts or any actual harm to consumers?

I mean, paid priority agreements are Beelzebub’s spawn? Tell that to the Post Office, or our highway express lanes, or to Amtrak.

Gimme a break.

If facts do not matter, when reason has been cast aside, we’re in a whole-heap of trouble, Travis. At any point, three unelected bureaucrats can decide what’s “reasonable,” and then go about rearranging our economy, our commerce, our property, our speech, to conform to their views and ideology. And that’s just at the FCC.

Goodness, we’re [expletive deleted].

Congress must act to correct this with clear and focused law which clamps down on this game. If we do not soon, we deserve the rough road our Federal agencies have paved for us.

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This week’s Court ruling affirms – so far – that Net Neutrality is the law of the land. It will be at least a year-and-a-half before this can be challenged, and that outcome realized, via another DC Circuit appeal, or at the Supreme Court. Of course, clear congressional legislation overturning the ruling would be nicer, but I’m not holding my breath.

For the time being, Net Neutrality – and the regulatory shackles it brings to other aspects of the Internet ecosystem – will continue protecting Silicon Valley / Google from vigorous, pro-consumer competition. Consequently, the Court’s ruling fully thrusts the ecosystem into phase two of the law – that is, regulatory bypass by ISPs, and the resulting wack-a-mole steps the FCC will eventually exert to clamp down on that behavior (which is the full-employment-for-telecom-lobbyists-and-lawyers history of Title II).

Thankfully, there’s a small silver lining in all of this for ISPs. Necessity being the mother of invention, ISPs will begin working ever-more feverishly – and “creatively” – to keep apace with Silicon Valley. It stinks and is wasteful in that it has to be so indirect (instead of just spontaneously offering to the market otherwise “legal” products that are presumed to stand outside of any arbitrary regulatory quarantine), but heck, it’s gonna’ happen because of the needless distortions in the law which all but demand it.

The ISPs will start to introduce ways to legally, creatively bypass the FCC's Net Neutrality mess, as seen in this mock-up gift card. An added wasteful step to the already difficult and unpredictable process of innovation.

The ISPs will start to introduce new ways to legally (and “creatively”) bypass the FCC’s Net Neutrality mess, as seen in this mock-up gift card above. Sadly, it is an added wasteful step to the already difficult and unpredictable process of innovation.

Already, we see some of the biggest ISPs buying content vehicles and networks, seeking to gain a better toehold in / against the asymmetrically regulated edge space. I can envision other consumer-friendly techniques to be employed, too – like metered pricing, or “1-800” pricing, or bandwidth-on-demand, or user-directed priority lanes – to better monetize value stranded (or purposely made harder to mine) by the FCC’s spurious Net Neutrality law.

Innovation is a non-linear process. It is risky, too. The rigged regulatory game only makes that worse – which, I guess is its point, as it protects the very companies (e.g., Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc.) which pushed for those regulations.

Consumers demand better. Hopefully the ISPs will quickly figure numerous pro-consumer ways to bypass the FCC’s new regulatory labyrinth.

More to come…

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Court Affirms FCC Internet Power Grab, Putting the American Consumer on the Losing End

June 14, 2016

The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org: Today, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the FCC’s Internet power-grab, ruling that the Agency’s most recent Net Neutrality Order remains the law of the land. What is clear from the lengthy and detailed ruling is this: the FCC now holds the […]

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FCC’s Comment System Looks Better, but Its Ability to Disenfranchise Real Voices Remains

June 9, 2016

The other day I participated in an FCC webinar which outlined new changes to the Agency’s beleaguered Electronic Comment Filing System. You may know that the system, which collects comments from stakeholders and the public on various proceedings before the FCC, has come under increased scrutiny of late due to its shutting down and / […]

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Only Cronyism Prevents FCC from Following FTC Privacy Model

June 6, 2016

Activist groups pushing for heavy-handed, public utility-style Internet privacy regulations cry that FTC enforcement of Internet privacy – one which has guided the Internet’s development for ISPs and edge companies these past two decades – no longer works… …for ISPs, that is. For companies like Google and Facebook – the most dominant and inescapable data […]

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Innovation at Government Speed – 8 Years to Update FCC’s Electronic Comment System

June 2, 2016

The President ushered in and mastered the web as a powerful tool to win elections and policy battles. You know, MoveOn.org, etc. The FCC picked up on this and encouraged the public to comment via the Web in its rulemaking process since the beginning of the Obama Administration. It’s cited those comments in its 2010 […]

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MediaFreedom Urges FCC to Avoid Preventing ISPs from Competing in Data Markets

May 28, 2016

Yesterday afternoon, MediaFreedom filed comments with the FCC on its proposal (in WC Docket No. 16-106) to effectively prevent ISP competition with edge providers in the data marketplace.  In brief, MediaFreedom urged the Commission to avoid such heavy-handed, asymmetric regulation, which benefits only companies like Google and Facebook, not consumers, and instead rely on the […]

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Many Robo-Comment Campaigns Are Really DoS Attacks to Disenfranchise Your Voice

May 20, 2016

Have you seen these tweets (pictured below) urging legislators to urge the FCC to “Unlock the Box.” They’ve clogged the @FCC twitter feed making it virtually useless these past couple of days. They follow a similar pattern – three or four tweets in a row, many from apparent Twitter newbies, all using the same cut-and-paste […]

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