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The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Net Neutrality'

Monday, January 06

Expecting a Ruling

By Brad

2014 is here, and the year ahead promises to be a big one in tech, beginning with a major court ruling that could shake things up in the next few days. As Kate Tummarello of The Hill reports, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals may soon rule on the FCC’s “net neutrality” rules:

Verizon argues the FCC cannot regulate Internet providers like traditional telephone companies and is hoping to triumph over the administration in the second most powerful court in the land.

A decision against the rules would be a blow to President Obama, who made net neutrality a campaign pledge in 2008. It would also erase one of the central achievements of former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Flashbacks to three years ago, anyone?

Monday, April 01

The Search for a New Chair

By Brad

Over at The Hill, Brendan Sasso warns President Obama is headed into a “political minefield” as he mulls a successor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski:

It’s an important choice for Obama, as the next chairman will face difficult decisions over how to provide enough airwaves for mobile devices, preserve the openness of the Internet and promote competition.

Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and fundraiser for Obama, was considered the clear favorite for the job just last week. But then a coalition of public interest groups sent a letter to the president bashing him, and 37 senators signed a letter supporting an alternative pick: FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.

“Wheeler is still the front runner, but it isn’t as secure as it was a week or two ago,” another industry watcher said.

Monday, March 25

FCC Changes & Net Neutrality

By Brad

Last Friday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced he would be stepping down from the Commission. Today, The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso highlights what could be a major challenge for Genachowski’s successor:

The next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could face a high-stakes and politically explosive decision.

If a federal court strikes down the commission’s net neutrality rules, the next chairman will have to decide whether and how to try to reinstate them.

The next chairman’s response to a negative court ruling could spark a vicious fight with congressional Republicans on one hand, or leave the agency almost powerless to regulate modern technologies on the other.

Sasso goes on to report that the outgoing Chairman believes the FCC’s net neutrality rules will stand:

In an interview on Friday, Genachowski said he is confident that the commission will defeat Verizon’s challenge, noting that the same court recently sided with the FCC over data-roaming regulations.

“I think that we won the debate on whether to have an open Internet and whether the government has an appropriate role,” Genachowski said, adding that he believes the regulations have spurred innovation and investment. He declined to comment about the potential for reclassification.

Of course, Genachowski wasn’t the only member of the FCC to announce he was leaving. Commissioner Robert McDowell also announced his departure last week, and in an interview with Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica, he took a parting shot at the Commission’s net neutrality work:

First of all, I’ve been a strong advocate for a free and open Internet. What I opposed really focused on, first of all, there is no market failure that needed to be addressed. Second, the FCC did not have the statutory authority to do what it did. Third, if there had been a problem there were laws already on the books that would have addressed the problem.

There wasn’t a problem before the rules and there’s not a problem with any danger of a closed Internet in this country after the rules. For those who think the rules have preserved an open Internet, that’s sort of like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

Thursday, January 17

Netflix Looking for ISPs to Foot Bill for Fast Lanes

By IIA

In a post for Multichannel News, titled “In Netflix’s Version of Net Neutrality, It’s Entitled to Non-Neutral Treatment,” Todd Spangler breaks down Netflix’s new push for Internet providers to carry their high volume of traffic:

To Netflix, its Open Connect content delivery network program is an all-around win: By caching frequently accessed (and high bit rate) video in ISPs’ data centers, Netflix saves money on CDN costs; ISPs can cut upstream bandwidth utilization; and end users get a better streaming experience.

Netflix argues that this just makes the Internet better for everyone, and doesn’t cost ISPs a dime since Netflix is footing the bill to install the CDN caches anywhere the providers want.

But some ISPs are chafing at Netflix’s offer. Time Warner Cable has gone on record to complain that it’s unfair for Netflix to hold back “super HD” and 3D content unless a broadband provider plays ball and opens its doors for Netflix’s servers.

Spangler argues Netflix’s actions are anti-competitive, since the company is essentially demanding ISPs cut them a special deal. It also restricts content from certain consumers. As Fred Campbell of the Communications Liberty and Innovation Project (or CLIP), writes:

With its “Open Connect” model, Netflix is withholding content from the customers of ISPs that decline to accede to its demands. Though the details of its demands are unknown, it appears Netflix is requiring that ISPs “peer” with them or pay for the installation of Netflix equipment inside their networks as well as the ongoing costs of operating that equipment.

Like Spangler, Campbell also sees this as a move to reduce competition in the market, especially given Netflix’s increased clout through a recent deal it cut with major content providers:

Netflix recently announced a new multi-year licensing agreement that makes it the “exclusive American subscription TV service for first run live-action and animated features from the Walt Disney Studios.” In addition to Disney-branded content (e.g., The Lion King), the deal includes content produced by Pixar (e.g., Brave), Lucasfilm (e.g., Star Wars), and Marvel (e.g., The Avengers). Netflix also announced a multi-year deal with Turner Broadcasting and Warner Bros. that includes the Cartoon Network and exclusive distribution rights to TNT’s television series Dallas. As an analyst recently told Ars Technica, “These movies, if you’ve got young kids—you’ve got to have Netflix.”

Barring some sort of advanced technological breakthrough — say, content beamed directly into our heads — streaming video is the future of entertainment. That makes this latest maneuver by Netflix worth paying attention to. As Campbell points out:

Unfortunately, most consumers won’t realize that Netflix is trying to impose its costs on all Internet consumers to gain an anticompetitive price advantage against its over-the-top competitors.

Friday, December 07

A Warning on Regulations

By Brad

With Verizon’s challenge to the FCC’s net neutrality order still making its way through the courts, John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reports at least one Commissioner is worried the outcome could lead to more regulation of the Internet:

If a D.C. federal appeals court upholds the FCC’s network neutrality rules, Republican commissioner Ajit Pai expects the Democrat-led commission to expand regulation of the Internet, including into the mobile wireless space and usage-based pricing.

That came in a speech to the Phoenix Center in Washington on Thursday, according to a copy of the text.

Commissioner Pai also stated that any attempt to reclassify broadband under Title II would “dramatically slow broadband deployment.”

Monday, November 19

Regulations and Free Speech

By Brad

As Verizon continues to battle the FCC’s net-neutrality regulations in court, the company has argued the rules are a violation of first amendment rights. This, Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports, is not sitting well with some Democratic House members:

Three top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote a letter to their colleagues on Friday, calling attention to a “troubling” constitutional argument Verizon has made in its bid to overturn net-neutrality regulations.

Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman (Calif.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Edward Markey (Mass.) warned that Congress’s power to regulate the communications industry would be severely restricted if the court accepts Verizon’s claim that the net-neutrality regulations violate its First Amendment free speech rights.

Thursday, July 05

Dropping the Challenge

By Brad

When the FCC announced its net neutrality rules two years ago, major Internet provider Verizon was quick to challenge them in court, pushing for a lighter regulatory touch. On the other end of the spectrum, advocacy group Free Press was also quick to challenge the rules, long calling for the FCC to enact expanded regulations.

Now, Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports, the group has dropped its court challenge in order to “direct our resources elsewhere in the continued campaign to preserve the open Internet.”

Tuesday, July 03

Challenging the FCC

By Brad

Verizon is still seeking FCC approval for its proposed spectrum deal with cable companies, but that’s not stopping the wireless provider from continuing to fight the Commission’s net neutrality rules in court. As The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso reports:

In Monday’s filing, Verizon argued that instead of “proceeding with caution” in light of the Comcast ruling, the FCC adopted rules that “go even farther than its prior action and impose dramatic new restrictions on broadband Internet access service providers.”

“Here again, the FCC has acted without statutory authority to insert itself into this crucial segment of the American economy, while failing to show any factual need to do so,” Verizon wrote.

The company argued that Congress never authorized the FCC to regulate Internet access and that the agency acted without sufficient evidence to suggest the rules were necessary.

Verizon claimed that the rules violate its First Amendment free speech rights.

According to Sasso, the FCC’s legal response to the suit should arrive in September.

Monday, April 11

House Makes it Official

By Brad

Last Friday, with a 240-179 vote mainly down party lines, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives repealed the FCC’s net neutrality regulations. Opponents of the FCC’s rules shouldn’t crack open the champagne, however, as the bill is expected to die in the Senate, and even if it somehow makes it to President Obama’s desk will surely face a veto.

Tuesday, April 05

Today in Net Neutrality

By Brad

With the GOP-controlled House working to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, the Obama administration has preemptively signaled they will veto any repeal that reaches the President’s desk. Reports Tony Romm and Eliza Krigman at Politico:

A Statement of Administration Policy issued late Monday emphasized that the White House “strongly opposes House passage” of the resolution of disapproval, which would roll back rules the FCC enacted in December that require Internet providers to treat all traffic equally.

The administration described any Republican attempt to undo the FCC’s work as one that would “undermine a fundamental part of the Nation’s Internet and innovation strategy — an enforceable and effective policy for keeping the Internet free and open.”

Meanwhile, via Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post (among others), the lawsuit brought by Verizon against the FCC regarding the new regulations has been dismissed in federal court due to a technicality:

In an order Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the legal basis the companies used to file. Judges Karen Lecraft Henderson, David S. Tatel and Brett M. Kavanaugh said in the court’s order that a challenge to the FCC rules must come after the so-called net neutrality order is published in the Federal Register, and said the “prematurity” of Verizon’s lawsuit was “incurable.”

But as the National Journal‘s David Hatch reports, Verizon isn’t backing down:

A Verizon spokesman blamed the dismissal on the FCC, which he said was unclear about when an appeal should be filed. He confirmed that the telecom giant plans to resubmit its suit, but this time it will wait until the commission publishes its new Internet rules in the federal register next month.

Monday, April 04

Net Neutrality Back on the Front Burner

By Brad

Via The Hill‘s Sara Jerome, the Republican effort to kill the FCC’s net neutrality regulations will receive a fast-track hearing from the House Rules Committee today at 5 pm.

Friday, March 25

Questions About Visits

By Brad

The Hill’s Gautham Nagesh reports that House Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa has some lingering questions about how the FCC’s net neutrality rules came about — specifically, how much the White House was involved:

Issa wrote to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday asking for more information on the numerous visits made to the White House by top FCC officials while the commission was formulating its net-neutrality rules, which were passed in December.

In the letter, Issa informs Genachowski that his previous response to inquiries on the topic were incomplete, and asks for full records and logs of all meetings.

Wednesday, March 16

Antitrust Laws and Net Neutrality

By Brad

At The Hill, Sara Jerome reports that Senator Al Franken — one of the staunchest net neutrality supporters on Capitol Hill — is going to introduce a bill making net neutrality violations outright unlawful:

Franken said in a speech at the South by Southwest conference on Monday that he is planning legislation that would amend antitrust laws to “call violations of net neutrality out for what they are: anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our anti-trust laws.”

Friday, March 11

A Return of Title II?

By Brad

While most analysts and pundits believe efforts in Congress to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality regulations is a non-starter (since any repeal would surely be met by President Obama’s veto pen), the current challenges to the rules in court are another matter. As Sara Jerome of The Hill reports, at least one Republican in Congress, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, is worried that should the rules be struck down, the FCC will turn its attention back to Title II regulations.

Thursday, March 10

Passing Repeal

By Brad

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee voted to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality regulations 15-8. The vote was along party lines.

What’s next? According to The Hill’s Sara Jerome, the Senate isn’t likely to touch the subject of repeal until sometime this summer. But if repealing the regs makes out of there, it will likely be vetoed by President Obama.

Wednesday, March 09

A “Pan” for Net Neutrality

By Brad

In advance of today’s net neutrality hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post reports that Republicans have “panned” the reasons the FCC has provided for the new rules being necessary:

In a statement, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee leaders Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said an economic analysis provided by the FCC for its Internet access rules “failed to provide a compelling justification for its power-grab.”

Despite the strong words, it’s expected this challenge to net neutrality will be little more than political theater, as it’s unlikely Congress will be able to overturn the rules.

Friday, March 04

Not Likely

By Brad

Despite all the talk about repealing and/or defunding the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post reports actually getting the job done in Congress will be an uphill battle:

To become law, the two bills at play—one that would overturn rules and the other that would withhold appropriations for the agency—would have to pass a House and Senate vote. And President Obama would have to sign on to the legislation.

President Obama has long been a strong supporter of net neutrality, so it’s expected that even if the legislation would land on his desk it would be quickly vetoed.

Wednesday, March 02

Postponing the Reversal

By Brad

Via Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post, the vote scheduled for today by the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee to reverse the FCC’s net neutrality regulations has been postponed. A new date and time for the vote has yet to be scheduled.

Tuesday, March 01

Strong Words From the Speaker

By Brad

In a speech at the National Religious Broadcasters convention last week, House Speaker John Boehner had some strong words for the FCC’s net neutrality regulations:

“Right now, freedom and free expression are under attack by a power structure in Washington populated with regulators who have never set foot inside a radio station or a television studio. 

“We see this threat in how the FCC is creeping further into the free market by trying to regulate the Internet

“‘Network neutrality,’ they call it.  It’s a series of regulations that empower the federal bureaucracy to regulate Internet content and viewpoint discrimination.  The rules are written vaguely, of course, to allow the FCC free reign.

“The last thing we need, in my view, is the FCC serving as Internet traffic controller, and potentially running roughshod over local broadcasters who have been serving their communities with free content for decades.

The full text of speech is available at Rep. Boehner’s website.

Thursday, February 24

A Letter Defending Net Neutrality

By Brad

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passes an amendment that would defund the FCC’s net neutrality efforts. Via Wes Barrett of Fox News, the move isn’t sitting well with Senators in the Democrat-controlled Senate:

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Al Franken, D-Minn., signed on to [a] letter that also mentions efforts to permanently defund net neutrality implementation through a Congressional Review Act.

“We write to object strongly to the use of the appropriations process or the Congressional Review Act to keep the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from doing its job,” the letter says. “We ask you to object to any similar efforts here in the Senate. Such action aims to strip the FCC of its legal authority over modern communications and hand control of the Internet over to the owners of the wires that deliver information and services over them.”

Later in the letter, the Senators state they’re willing to work with the House to modernize the Communications Act, but that the FCC should be continued to work on net neutrality regardless.

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