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

Mt. Vernon, VA, January 19, 2015 – MediaFreedom is heartened by a draft bill proposed by Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI) that is designed to protect and further Internet Openness through a clear and unambiguous policy framework for the Federal Communications Commission to follow.

For the better part of a decade, MediaFreedom and its staff have worked to ensure that the advance of technology, industry best practices and peer policing, consumer education and transparency, competition and present enforcement tools to combat actual consumer harm all work to protect the Internet and help it grow in a sustainable, healthy manner. Over this same period, however, an increasingly activist and radical FCC has worked in the opposite direction to mandate – through hook, crook and loophole – heavy-handed, FDR-era telephone regulations on the provision of Internet services, seeking to “fix” an amorphous “problem” that has never even remotely come close to manifesting itself in the real world.

Though these attempts by the FCC to impose so-called “Net Neutrality” have twice been struck down by the Federal Courts, this past year the undaunted agency has feverishly worked with special interest groups and Silicon Valley to attempt, yet again, to yoke the Internet to old-fashioned telephone rules. Recent statements made by the President and his “independent” FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, indicate that by late February the FCC’s majority Commissioners will vote to impose Title II regulations on the Internet.

These rules are unwarranted.  We have never had more and growing choice of communications services than now. That did not happen by accident. It was the result of truly bi-partisan efforts and policy choices made in the late 90’s to foster private Internet investment by keeping government interference in the medium to an absolute minimum.

It cannot be more plainly stated that this – Title II represents the exact opposite of this bi-partisan model. Its effect will thus yield similarly contrary, crippling results for the entire Internet ecosystem. It would place the U.S. led Internet in steep decline, not sure-footed ascendance.

This draft bill is not about supporting “Net Neutrality”, whatever that vague term means this week. Moreover, our support of many of the concepts within the draft do not constitute an admission that markets are somehow broken and cannot serve consumers and society without the government’s active involvement. The markets are not broken and in fact thrive. We arrive here because the FCC is out of control, lawless. Its actions, goaded by rent-seeking Silicon Valley companies and political opportunists, have caused significant uncertainty for the medium. Their work to mandate Title II regulations represents a clear and present danger to the Internet and the light touch model which undeniably helped it flourish for all.

For MediaFreedom, legislation is always the last choice, preferring instead to let markets do their work as free as possible from the distorting effects of government regulations or handouts. The present conflict with a rogue FCC, however, leaves us no other avenue to pursue. Congress remains the only appropriate body now (and ever) to address the matter at hand. Accordingly, the FCC must stand down and let Congress properly deliberate and craft a meaningful, unambiguous Internet Openness framework that prevents the Commission from eviscerating the Internet.

MediaFreedom believes these important efforts from Senator Thune and Congressman Upton must go forward.

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

Mt. Vernon, VA, January 14, 2015 – Today, the President is formally urging the FCC to preempt state laws that protect taxpayers from funding wasteful, muni-provided broadband systems. That action, among others ostensibly designed to boost the roll-out of broadband, is not only unwarranted, it is downright offensive to states, the free marketplace and Internet innovation.

It is not by accident that the President has waited until the fourth-quarter of his presidency to announce this and similarly controversial calls for the regulation of the Internet via 1934-era regulation. Like his “independent” FCC, the President seeks to impose law through unctuous loophole, against the will of Congress, as well as that of the voters, who in 2014 voted for less government intervention in their lives, not more; against those who, in the states he wants his FCC to preempt, voted to protect themselves from waste and abuse. The President and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler know their policies stand on dubious legal foundations, but, heck, possession being nine-tenth’s of the law, they’re going ahead with them anyway. Just because they can.

Their actions take bullying to a new level.

$7 billion of U.S. Taxpayer money was spent on the so-called broadband stimulus of 2009. The FCC administers nearly $8 billion-plus yearly in Universal Service funding to connect Americans. The Department of Agriculture guarantees hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars of loans each year to bring communications out to the hinterlands. Yet these programs, and others, are somehow not enough to bring broadband service – conveniently defined by them as many-times more than the market can presently bear – to Americans.

Preposterous.

It is clear that the only guiding principle in this lawless administration is this: If it deems it wants something it shall take it. Or, lacking that ability outright, it shall undermine and futz with the marketplace so thoroughly that government-provided “solutions” look to be the only viable way out of their connivance.

Plainly, the bullies at the White House and the FCC will not stop until they have taken all of our lunch money.  But facts are stubborn.  The broadband market is growing, dynamic and vibrant. It is delivering. It will continue to do so. That is, if government can stay out of the way. That model works. It was what built the privately-funded Internet we now know and enjoy.

The President’s and the FCC’s work of late goes in the opposite direction. Exactly one year ago to the day that a Federal Court threw out the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules to “boost broadband deployment,” like a creepy stalker violating his TRO, the President has come back to revisit the crime scene to exact “broadband justice”.  Not only will his actions give local residents a black eye, they will do bodily harm to the roll-out of broadband infrastructure and ecosystem innovation.

Americans should vociferously defend themselves against the President’s latest proposal.  Congress, not the President or his “independent” FCC, is the only proper place to make this policy.

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After a year of speculation and missteps, last week in Las Vegas FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler showed his Net Neutrality cards, finally revealing that the FCC would reclassify the Internet as a 1934 telephone service at February’s open meeting. 

Pokerface: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Pokerface: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The pressure to arrive at this decision has been immense. Millions of average people commented on how the FCC should, or should not, regulate the Internet. Internet players from all parts of the ecosystem lobbied the matter heavily. Even the President weighed in, urging the FCC to regulate broadband providers as old-fashioned utilities.

But, independent ‘ol Tom saw the light on his own. And, last week he said that he had finally found the regulatory model that’s just right for the Internet. Speaking at a CES keynote address, Wheeler noted (in this article):

“…The model has been set in the wireless business…[F]or the last 20 years the wireless industry has been monumentally successful — hundreds of billions of dollars of investments as a Title II regulated [industry].”

Really, Tom? What monumental success are you talking about? The voice side – which is indeed regulated, albeit lightly, under Title II? Or, the wireless broadband side – which has never been regulated in that manner?

Aww heck, it doesn’t matter. Tom is going to impose Title II regardless of the facts. The whole successful model thing is a fiction he needs to tell in order to regulate full bore all of the Internet. If you believe it, then it’s OK to regulate broadband, in any form, back to 1934.

Does Tom believe Tom? Probably not. But that’s beside the point.

In speeches he made this Fall, while Wheeler praised the wireless industry for its growth and expansion, he bemoaned the lack of “meaningful competition” in the industry, and essentially relegated wireless communications services to third-class status, ultimately concluding:

We have great hopes for wireless as a potential substitute for fixed broadband connections. But today it seems clear that mobile broadband is just not a full substitute for fixed broadband…

To ensure that (among other things), last week he proposed lifting the definition of broadband from 4mbps to 25mbps downstream, which would mean that most wireless broadband providers would technically no longer be considered broadband providers. Not accidentally, this changed goal post would put millions of wireless users into the digital divide, thus (self) justifying the FCC’s “help” – meaning, imposition of Title II Net Neutrality rules – to connect them to the “true promise” of the Internet (which is wired gigabit, not wireless LTE, or some other wireless service).

On top of this, last month the FCC failed to find that the wireless market was “effectively competitive,” the Agency explaining:

[The] Seventeenth Report does not reach an overall conclusion or formal finding regarding whether or not the [wireless] marketplace was effectively competitive…Given the complexity of the various inter-related segments and services within the mobile wireless ecosystem, we refrain from providing any single conclusion because such an assessment would be incomplete and possibly misleading in light of the variations and complexities we observe.

This all raises an interesting set of questions.  If the complex wireless industry is “monumentally successful,” and this ostensibly happened by virtue of how it was regulated by the FCC, how could it be that it is not “effectively competitive”? Moreover, how could this Title II model of regulation work for the entire Internet?

And this touches on the larger, underlying truth. Yes, the wireless marketplace is vibrant and competitive. And similarly, so is the wired broadband marketplace. But, that all happened in spite of Title II regulation, not because of it. Every gain that the marketplace experienced was made by trying to avoid the corrosive effect of utility regulation.

You know, the broadband companies weren’t just sitting around, saying to themselves and their shareholders, “Gee we want to be even more innovative and profitable. We’ve got this great idea. Let’s get heavily regulated under Title II so that’ll happen even better and faster.”

Nope.  Didn’t happen.

Tom knows the real story. Title II doesn’t incentivize anyone to invest and innovate. Simply, companies have to invest billions just to stay competitive. And the FCC’s gonna’ leverage that hook bigtime. If the broadband providers make a couple fewer dollars, so be it. Running the table, Tom simply doesn’t care. He will issue his Title II rule. It will be appealed. The FCC will lose for a fourth time. But, by then, Tom will be long gone. And the companies he’s really done this for – those freeloaders in Silicon Valley – will have gotten what they wanted; they will have profited handsomely from the subsidy; and most Americans won’t even know what him ‘em.

How come my X-Box ain’t connectin’ to the Internet so fast, Mamma? Aww, those damn telephone monopolies.  They’re at it agin’.”

Yeah, blame it on the broadband providers. That pretty much always works.

It’s easy to be a betting man when you don’t have to pay the house. Sad, however, that the present leadership at the “independent” FCC and the White House bet U.S. communications policy with chips they don’t have.

What happens in Vegas stays there.

Too bad that doesn’t seem true for Tom Wheeler and the FCC.

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A collective yawn went out from the self-appointed consumer advocates late in 2014 when a spate of Net Neutrality studies emerged (like this one), showing that reclassification of broadband could cost consumers up to $15 billion in new fees and taxes.

Of course, this has import for the so-called digital divide.  Every dollar that has to be paid in levies is a dollar that can keep Americans from adopting the Internet.  The poor and marginalized are especially hard hit in this regard.

You would think that the advocates would be all up in arms about these regressive-looking fees. But at least one such zealot urged that “the FCC shouldn’t dismiss the idea too quickly.”

Another, quibbling with the studies’ estimates, well, just quibbled, but essentially affirmed that dividing new costs will occur as a result of reclassification.

They’re not concerned because all that digital divide stuff is small potatoes when compared to what’s really at stake with Net Neutrality – namely, Uncle Sam’s control of our labor.

Let me explain.  

For the advocates, reclassification means government mandated “competition” that can jump on and off broadband networks at any time, subsidized by artificially set price controls, among other regulatory protections.  Consequently, FCC-managed “competition” is really nothing more than the government “legally” stealing private property and then handing it to others (like to powerful Silicon Valley companies).    

Broadband providers want the freedom to work with and reach specialized agreements with other companies to provide different levels of service to consumers.  These agreements would allow broadband providers and their partners to tailor their offerings to meet specific marketplace needs, enabling the roll-out of new tools that make our lives better and more fruitful.  Further, they would prevent average consumers from having to pay for services they don’t use, while growing the general capabilities of the network for all users at the same time.     

Specialized agreements were permissible under the old monopoly phone system.  An example is the 1-800 number.  It allowed small and large companies to defray the cost of long distance calls to consumers, providing an incentive for customers to use that underlying service over others.

Today, the monopoly phone system is dead.  The very need to regulate in that manner no longer exists.  Vibrant and growing competition – which was once illegal in the old system – flourishes.  Consequently, you’d think that what was reasonable in that system would be even more so today.   

But no, the advocates want to outlaw consumer-friendly arrangements like 1-800 numbers (and well beyond) because, as they see it, they’re automatically unreasonable, wrong. 

In essence, the advocates want the FCC to ban the way parties decide how to work with each other – even where no harm can be found – because those efforts will make some traffic more attractive to the marketplace than others.  And that’s “evil” because “real” Net Neutrality, for them, means all traffic must be treated equally! 

Sure – it’s true that government can prevent in certain instances the way some individuals contract / work with others where health, safety and morals are involved.  These automatic bans prevent agreements to engage in such things as illegal activities, or with protected classes of individuals, or for clearly dangerous endeavors.  They prohibit obvious, not-so-good stuff. 

But automatically banning 1-800 numbers and the like for Internet consumers?  Between parties that freely agree and want these types of arrangements?   

Crazy, right?

Yep. 

The phone system and Internet never operated that way before.  But now the advocates – including President Barack Obama – demand that’s the only way the Internet should be run from now on. 

In their eyes, competition is great.  That is, until one actually wants to compete.  Then, Uncle Sam has to OK what one can or can’t do.  You’ve got to go through the FCC to get your union card to work, so-to-speak. 

And, here’s what that union card gets you: 

  • It forces Americans to work harder in order to pay the FCC’s regressive levies, in particular making the digital divide wider – and thus its wealth-creating benefits more difficult to obtain – for America’s most marginalized citizens; 
  • It steals the fruits of broadband providers’ and their partners’ labor through FCC-managed Internet “competition,” giving their facilities to “competitors” below cost;
  • It makes average consumers put more of their backs into subsidizing Silicon Valley billionaires (on top of the billions in subsidies the Valley already gets through pirated content) so they can deliver services that rapaciously harvest our personal information for windfall profit;
  • It impedes freedom of contract and labor by flat-out banning work arrangements that harm no one; and
  • It constricts consumer offerings and innovation that Americans could use to become more productive, prosperous and free.

Work is hard.  It isn’t called recess or nap time, after all.  But, why do the consumer advocates, the President and the FCC want to make it harder?

Because they have the votes at the FCC; it makes the bosses (Silicon Valley) happy; and it maintains jealous old Uncle Sam’s role as controller of us hoards, undermining the liberty-enhancing effects of free markets. 

Which is sad.  Net Neutrality is a union shop that does little, if anything, to protect its workers.  It’s a labor movement no one should be part of. 

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Ignoring the Moral Hazard of Uncle Sam “Helping” Free Speech

December 19, 2014

This tweet exchange (pictured at right) was started by Dan Gillmor, who, according to his website, teaches digital media literacy and promoting entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He’s also a self-proclaimed First Amendment scholar, and a strong proponent of Net Neutrality. Briefly, he sees the (ostensible) terrorist […]

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Conniving to Get “Real” Net Neutrality

December 16, 2014

Transcription – Free Press’ Craig Aaron on bullhorn: “We’ve brought in a giant magnifying glass. ‘Cuz we are going to symbolize how closely we’re going to be watching these rules and this decision. And how carefully we’re going to be scrutinizing if this is real Title II. Not fake Title II. No loopholes. No poison […]

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Lobbying, Silicon Valley Style

December 4, 2014

The impromptu speech above came from “Net Neutrality advocate” Marvin Ammori at a Save the Internet rally in front of the White House in early November. He was speaking to anti-corporate flower children who populated the rally, trying his best “little guy” approach so he could connect with them on why the FCC must mandate […]

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Video: Tom Wheeler Should Avoid Title II, Work With Congress on New Policy, with Seton Motley

November 20, 2014

With the change in government earlier this month – that is, Senate and House controlled by solid Republican majorities – you’d think this would present an opportunity for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to avoid the nuclear option of Title II for the Internet.  He could easily stop where’s going and say, “Heck, if I want […]

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With Title II, If You Like Your Internet, You Can Keep It. Period.

November 19, 2014
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Americans Being “Grubered” on Title II Net Neutrality

November 14, 2014

Since at least 2010, those pushing the concept of Net Neutrality have sold it as “easy peasy,” because “[y]ou’re not talking about applying new, onerous regulations on companies and asking them to comply with a bunch of red tape…You’re essentially preserving the status quo.” Um, sure. On Monday morning, the President flat-out endorsed full application […]

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