Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Thursday, August 04

Verizon’s Exit

By Brad

Over at The Street, our own Bruce Mehlman has an op-ed on Verizon’s recent about face when it comes to investment and facilities-based competition, particularly in the business data services market. An excerpt:

Since 2003 — a virtual eternity in the fast-paced world of telecom — Verizon has staunchly advocated for investment, deployment of fiber, and facilities-based competition. Verizon’s once-visionary leadership coined the phrase ‘new wires, new rules/old wires, old rules’ used by the FCC to create pro-fiber investment policies that helped spur the deployment of its modern high-speed broadband network. The “Fi” in FiOS, a central part of Verizon’s corporate strategy and broadband buildouts — stands for fiber, after all.

Yet Verizon now trumpets a deal with the competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) trade association INCOMPAS that favors price regulation in the BDS market. Why the sudden change? Some might suggest that Verizon’s proposed mergers currently pending before the FCC and other government agencies might be the reason why the company is now simply driving 55 past the speed trap giving a friendly wave to the regulatory cops.

But there’s another likely reason: In a highly regulated environment, it can be tempting to let regulators determine outcomes in markets rather than doing the hard work of competition.

You can read Mehlman’s full piece at The Street.

Phoenix Center on Business Data Services and the FCC

By Brad

The Phoenix Center has released a new paper penned by Dr. George Ford titled “Learning from Bad Technique: The WIK-Consult Report on Business Data Services.” While the title of the paper may leave you guessing, its findings make pretty clear that the FCC’s current course and speed when it comes to Business Data Services are misguided. From the paper:

The need for rate regulation requires first a determination that there is market power, meaning that the observed prices or rates are above some “proper” level, usually defined with reference to economic cost or competitive outcomes. Yet, no party has provided the Commission with convincing evidence that prices are not “just and reasonable.” Instead, the unsupported claim that BDS prices “are too damn high” pretty much sums up the economic arguments, leaving the Agency little to work with and explaining its historical reluctance to intervene.

But past is past and the current Commission under Chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled its determination to address and likely lower BDS rates. The regulatory paradigm is outlines in the BDS NPRM is to skirt the issue of evaluating market power altogether, and instead use the simple head-count of the number of competitors as proxy. This analytical substitution is without validity in economic theory and especially inapt for telecommunications markets where fixed costs are largely relative to market size.

Wednesday, August 03

Senators Reach Out to FCC Over Special Access

By Brad

As the FCC continues its special access agenda, its use of flawed data is not escaping notice. The latest to voice their concerns about the Commission’s current course are nine senators — eight democrats, one independent — representing rural communities. From a letter these lawmakers sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on August 1:

We appreciate the Commission’s goal with the FNPRM to incentivize telecommunications providers to build and invest in networks while enhancing competition among the various providers of business data services. As you work toward a final rule, it is especially important for rural states like ours that the Commission use all the available data, including the data submitted earlier this year by the major cable operators, to both measure competitive markets accurately and ensure that the regulations for noncompetitive markets are based on the real cost to provide service.

The bipartisan letter was put together by Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who was joined by Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Angus King Jr. (I-Maine), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc).

For more on the FCC’s flawed Special Access process, check out this recent column from Hal Singer.

Tuesday, August 02

Ignoring the Cable Giant in the Room

By Bruce Mehlman

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The smart folks at Light Reading have kicked off a four-part series analyzing the Cable industry’s performance and opportunities in serving the business market. If you’re the type who enjoys wonking out on telecommunications complexities, you’ll want to check the series out.

The first part of the series, “How Cable Means Business About Business,” examines cable company entry into the business data services market. The data it presents makes clear how companies such as Comcast and Time Warner (now part of Charter Communications) have made significant inroads in the commercial communications service market. As this chart from the article shows, Comcast’s business market strategy appears focused on medium-sized business customers.

And Time Warner Cable (now owned by Charter Communications) has seen year over year revenue growth in the commercial service market:

So what’s the big deal about these charts? Why is cable’s growth in commercial services relevant?  It’s important because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  is poised to impose new price regulations on existing antiquated copper-based networks as well as new fiber facilities and services that serve business customers. The FCC justifies this regulatory overreach on the perceived lack of competition in the marketplace.   

In doing so, however, the Commission appears to be turning a blind eye to the true competitive nature of the commercial services market. As we’ve noted before, in crafting new price regulation, the FCC is relying on dated, incomplete and deeply flawed data. The FCC’s market data is not only nearly three years old, it also fails to capture the robust entry and success of cable in this market. 

Imposing heavy handed price regulation on this rapidly changing market could create long-term incentives that ultimately lower capital investment, lessen facilities-based competition, and harm consumer for businesses in urban and rural markets across the nation.   

Broadband network investment vital to 21st century economic growth and job development should not be put at risk, it’s not too late for the FCC to pause and consider these new data points before rushing to judgment.

Monday, August 01

IIA at the DNC: Campaign Communications

By IIA

Pew Research Center presents its latest data on campaign communications at our event at the Democratic National Convention, “From Netscape to Snapchat: Politics in the Age of Broadband.”

Tuesday, July 26

IIA at the DNC

By IIA

From Netscape to Snapchat: Politics in the Age of Broadband Wednesday, July 27th   5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing 201 South Columbus Boulevard Philadelphia, PA 19106 Pew Research Center will present its latest data on campaign communications

During the 1996 re-election campaign, presidential candidates primarily reached voters through traditional media – one-way communication. Americans were limited in how they could make their voices heard: writing or faxing a letter, picking up the phone, or visiting with candidates in-person. That same year, the light-touch regulatory framework of the 1996 Telecom Act set the stage for extensive network investment and innovation that created many new channels for two-way and multi-way communication between presidential campaigns and voters, empowering Americans to shape the presidential race.

The Internet Innovation Alliance invites you to explore these questions with us over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres:

• How has the way that presidential campaigns reach American voters evolved since 1996?

• How are Americans interacting with presidential campaigns today using social media and the web?

• Can social media have a truly significant impact on the outcome of a presidential race?

• Has the political process been effectively democratized by broadband?

Featured speakers include:

Amy Mitchell (opening remarks)
Director of Journalism Research, Pew Research Center

Jonathan Allen
Head of Community and Content, Sidewise

Lauren Brown
Digital Director, Meridian Solutions

Mo Elleithee
Executive Director, Georgetown Institute of Politics
Former DNC Communications Director

Greg Pinelo
Partner and Chief Content Officer, GMMB

Jamal Simmons (moderator)
Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance

RSVP

Tuesday, July 19

Coverage of our RNC Event

By IIA

Yesterday, IIA held the event From Netscape to Snapchat: Politics in the Age of Broadband at the Republican National Convention. It was a great discussion, and featured new research from our friends at Pew on social media and this year’s election.

You can learn more about the discussion here. And here’s some of the coverage the discussion received in the press.

Sara Fagen, a technology strategist and former advisor to George W. Bush, said Clinton’s technology advantage will matter if the election is close. She cited Trump’s naming of Mike Pence as his running mate via Twitter as an example of a blown opportunity. Both Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 used their announcements to enlarge their lists of supporters.

Fagen predicted that the next major step in using technology to target voters would use data to find where and when to target them, using their location and beliefs to determine the type and content of ads. For example, certain women might hear education-related ads on the radio when they drop their kids off at school, then get another message at their work computers, followed by a mobile ad when they are most likely to be looking at their phones.

Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times

Bruce Mehlman, founding co-chairman of the IIA, said the increasing popularity of online news sources affirms the validity of federal communications sector policy that has allowed the industry to thrive.  “We really need to maintain these light-touch, pro-investment policies,” he said.

— John Curran, TR Daily

During an event in Cleveland Monday discussing the various candidates’ digital campaigns — less than two miles from the 2016 Republican National Convention — Deep Root Analytics’ Sara Fagen said Trump, who famously discounted analytics at the start of his campaign, has missed major opportunities that could make the 10 or 20,000-vote difference in key battleground states.

Giuseppe Macri, Inside Sources

Friday, July 15

IIA at the RNC

By IIA

Tune in Monday, July 18 starting at 12 pm EST for IIA’s From Netscape to Snapchat: Politics in the Age of Broadband, live from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. As part of the discussion, Pew Research Center will present its latest data on campaign communications.


Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

ABOUT THE EVENT

During the 1996 re-election campaign, presidential candidates primarily reached voters through traditional media – one-way communication. Americans were limited in how they could make their voices heard: writing or faxing a letter, picking up the phone, or visiting with candidates in-person. That same year, the light-touch regulatory framework of the 1996 Telecom Act set the stage for extensive network investment and innovation that created many new channels for two-way and multi-way communication between presidential campaigns and voters, empowering Americans to shape the presidential race.
 
The discussion will explore these questions and more:

• How has the way that presidential campaigns reach American voters evolved since 1996?

• How are Americans interacting with presidential campaigns today using social media and the web?

• Can social media have a truly significant impact on the outcome of a presidential race?

• Has the political process been effectively democratized by broadband?
 
Featured speakers include:
 
Amy Mitchell (opening remarks)
Director of Journalism Research, Pew Research Center
 
Lee Dunn
Senior Counsel, Google
 
Sara Fagen
Co-Founder, Deep Root Analytics
Partner, FleishmanHillard’s specialty brand DDC
 
Patrick Ruffini
Co-Founder, Echelon Insights
Chairman and Founder, Engage
 
Bruce Mehlman (moderator)
Founding Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance

Thursday, July 14

Recap of IIA Virtual Reality Event in San Francisco

By IIA

On the evening of July 13th, IIA hosted, “Cocktails & Virtual Reality: Breaking Innovation Boundaries with Broadband,” an event focused on how policymakers can support innovation and investment in high-speed internet infrastructure to help unlock the opportunities of a virtual reality ecosystem.

The event was held at Upload Collective, a hybrid co-working and incubation space in San Francisco where virtual reality demonstrations had been set up in three “holo-deck” rooms. Featured speakers for the panel included:

Evan Helda, Director of Sales and Partnerships, Meta Co.

Anjney Midha, Founding Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB) Edge

Tony Parisi, Co-Creator of the VRML and X3D ISO standards for networked 3D graphics, Upload Collective

Alisha Seam, Product Developer and Solutions Engineer, AT&T Foundry

Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow, Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Among the questions asked by moderator Jamal Simmons and the audience were:

• What products do you see on the horizon?

• What is the biggest obstacle to a robust VR marketplace?

• When you began in this field what was the craziest idea you had and has it come true or are we still waiting on it?

• What is the most frightening or perilous thing about VR?

• What is the biggest network challenge to bringing these ideas to life?

• What is the role of regulation? Has it helped or hurt?

• What can policymakers in Washington do to support all of this innovation?

• if]What about using augmented and virtual reality in driving?

• What about building for 5G?


 
Many attendees at the event expressed that they had not thought about the network requirements for virtual reality technology or the role of federal regulators in developing new products in the virtual reality sphere. You can watch the full discussion, along with some clips of attendees trying out the virtual reality experience for themselves, below.

 

 

Throwback Thursday

By IIA

Originally published by The Hill:

Consumer internet privacy: Leaving the back door unlocked

By Rick Boucher

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) asymmetric approach to internet privacy is likely to create a false sense of security among web users. Despite stringent FCC privacy regulation of internet service providers (ISPs), consumers’ information will enjoy little protection when they are interacting on social media sites, shopping online or surfing the web.

The recent Senate hearing on Internet privacy that featured FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Ajit Pai, along with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, underscored that the FCC’s approach to internet privacy — singling out ISPs while leaving the privacy practices of edge providers essentially unregulated — is unbalanced.

By analogy, compare internet privacy to protecting a house. Wheeler’s proposal only locks the front door to guard against ISP privacy violations, while keeping the back door wide open for edge providers, such as social media and e-commerce companies.

And that’s happening as the internet ecosystem shifts radically toward the ability of edge providers to make the greater use of consumer information. A recently released study demonstrates that the expanded use of end-to-end encryption renders ISPs incapable of accessing most data that moves across their networks. Meanwhile, edge providers have complete access to information about their users, and they have sophisticated processes for monetizing it.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) suggested a viable alternative that would be better for consumers: keeping both doors locked and assuring uniform privacy protections by both ISPs and edge providers. According to Franken, “Should they [consumers] choose to leave information with companies, they need to know this information is safeguarded to the greatest degree possible. Telecommunications providers and edge providers like Google need to ensure their customers have more information [on] the data being collected from them and if it is sold to third parties.”

The FCC claims it lacks authority over edge providers. The FTC regulates privacy through its “unfair trade practice” authority, under which enforcement only occurs when companies fail to deliver the privacy protections they promise. Neither agency can require edge providers to extend the privacy protections that Franken envisions. His goal could only be achieved if Congress conveys broader regulatory authority on one agency or the other.

Also better for consumers would be to keep both doors unlocked. It’s not ideal, but at least consumers would be aware that all of their personal data on the Internet, irrespective of the device, platform or service used, is susceptible to being tracked and utilized.

Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. The first approach would offer a consistent and enforceable set of consumer rights and expectations. However, Pai thinks the doors-unlocked approach would be better for investment and continued digital innovation.

If and until Congress acts to require edge providers to respect consumer privacy, the only way to assure parity of treatment across the ecosystem and give consumers clear privacy expectations is to rely entirely on the FTC to lightly oversee privacy for both ISPs and edge providers. As Ohlhausen said, the FTC’s approach, “which has been incremental and technology neutral, has allowed us to be flexible as technology changes.” It’s probably the best we can do under current law. Singling out one segment of the internet ecosystem for special and more onerous treatment is flawed policy.

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