As the FCC continues its murky — and occasionally confounding — Business Data Services (BDS) process, seven economists have penned a letter to the Commission arguing that any imposed rate regulation on what is a truly competitive market would be a mistake and counterproductive. From said letter:
As commenters across the spectrum rightly acknowledge, the rationale for ex ante rate regulation hinges entirely on protecting customers from a dominant provider’s abuse of market power; in turn, there is no plausible argument for regulation BDS providers that lack market power. No party has suggested — let alone demonstrated — that competitive BDS providers exercise significant market power. Moreover, some of the undersigned economists have examined marketplace data regarding the current state of BDS competition and have found that such data do not support claims that incumbent LECs exercise market power broadly in the provision of BDS.
Translation: The BDS market is competitive and there is no need for across the board price regulation. Again, from the letter:
To the degree there are some BDS markets with persistent monopoly power, we agree that it could be economically justified and welfare enhancing to reduce monopoly rents in such markets to a best approximation of competitive levels, to the extent such a goal can be achieved without imposing large costs on providers and disincentivizing investment. The Commission should limit any such regulation to markets characterized by monopoly power that are unlikely to become effectively competitive in the near future. To that end, the Commission should regulate BDS rates for legacy services only in geographic BDS markets where only a single facilities-based provider is present or nearby.
Translation: If regulation is necessary, it should be implemented using a scalpel, not a hacksaw.
To read the full letter from the economists to the FCC, click here.
With the election looming and the current makeup of the FCC likely nearing its end, Fred Campbell has penned a thorough look at what he describes as the FCC’s “legacy of confusion about competition.” An excerpt:
The Wheeler FCC’s repudiation of economic rigor and legal precedents is an anomaly that should end with this fall’s election. Unfortunately, Wheeler is determined to dictate the economic and engineering of several market segments before his time expires. In the few months he has remaining, Wheeler wants to:
• Dilute copyright protections for digital content, dictate retail pricing, and weaken privacy protections for consumers in the video marketplace (despite an FCC finding from just last year that this market is effectively competitive), all of which threaten to bring television’s second golden age to an end;
• Impose ineffective data regulations just on broadband Internet access providers (while leaving other big data companies untouched) that would give internet edge competitors government-sanctioned competitive advantages in the internet advertising and big data markets at the expense of consumers; and
• Impose new price regulations on business data services to reduce the investment costs of favored companies (like Sprint) at the expense of their competitors.
These last-minute proposals are inconsistent with our fundamental economic policy of promoting competition and private investment, and none of them are premised on the sound, data-driven analyses Wheeler promised.
The light-touch regulatory framework of the 1996 Telecom Act set the stage for extensive internet network investment and innovation. To examine how this investment and innovation have empowered Americans to shape presidential races, we hosted “From Netscape to Snapchat: Politics in the Age of Broadband” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention (RNC). You can watch a video of the event below.
Privacy in our digital world is once again making headlines, from the controversy over unlocking Apple’s encryption system to the latest breaches of information from e-commerce providers. Lost in all of this discussion—though also illuminated by it—is a tectonic shift in who has access to a user’s electronic data, a change that has profound implications for how privacy should be protected in the future.
Start from a simple point, with which users of digital devices would likely agree: All participants in the Internet economy should extend similar privacy protections to users. That only seems fair. The Internet user’s most important interest, after all, is to have confidence that his or her privacy is being uniformly protected throughout the Internet ecosystem by all entities that have access to users’ information.
“Competition” is one of those words that make policymakers tingle. And yet, time and time again, private industry finds itself wrestling with regulations that not only harm competition but — in the most extreme cases — actively benefit one party over another.
Case in point: wireline broadband competition. Providers have invested billions to expand the reach and speed of their networks, and yet recent actions taken by the FCC are threatening to stifle ongoing investment. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out this latest study from the American Consumer Institute titled “Concentration by Regulation: How the FCC’s Imposition of Asymmetric Regulations Are Hindering Wireline Broadband Competition in America.”
Yes, that title is quite the mouthful (as most study titles are), and to be honest, unless you’re someone who enjoys diving into studies (with charts) on regulations, investment, and the economy, you might find the report’s 18 pages a bit of a slog. But those of us who do read through ACI’s study will find a convincing — and rather damning — case that the FCC is mistepping rather badly as it continues to amass more and more power over broadband. For example, here’s what the report has to say about one of the biggest regulatory marks the Commission made in 2015:
Title II regulations are preserving and maintaining duplicative and costly copper networks. That cost is an impediment to fiber deployment that keeps ILECs more reliant on older copper-based DSL technologies. Instead of the FCC relieving non-dominant ILECs of Title II regulations in more competitive markets, the FCC has recently chosen to make broadband service providers subject to Title II regulations.
Unless there is action soon, the shift in concentration is likely to be permanent. A decade ago, the rollback of asymmetric regulations permitted modest rebound in broadband services for ILECs, because there was brisk growth in subscribers. Today, because the broadband market is so widespread, growing slower and more mature, asymmetric broadband regulation will likely have longer term consequences that could permanently displace and weaken wireline competition. Even if a rebound is possible, ILECs will face a major cost to win back customers. Regulations are costly and delays in lifting these regulations will be even more costly.
Translation: Old regulations that effect some providers and not others are forcing companies like Verizon and AT&T to invest billions in the copper networks of old. Meanwhile, other providers don’t face such regulatory roadblocks, even as they aim to invest in the very same thing legacy providers are investing in — fiber-backed, high-speed broadband networks. Not exactly the spirit of competition, is it?
The ACI study isn’t all doom and gloom for America’s communications infrastructure, though, for the group has thoughtfully included a three bullet points that can help level the playing field:
• Policymakers need to end Title II regulations for all providers.
• There needs to be less emphasis on regulation of wholesale services. Less regulation will encourage more facility-based investments, which will lead to the natural development of a healthy, wholesale market; and
• If regulators truly believe that some regulation of wholesale services is necessary – and that may be the case in some rural markets – then regulators need to apply these regulations on a symmetrical and competitively neutral basis.
In short, get rid of the bad regulations, be careful when imposing new ones, and make sure everyone is playing under the same rules. Wise words, but the question is: Will the FCC listen?
With the FCC swinging a large regulatory hammer these days, Fred Campbell of Forbes takes a close look at the Commission’s conditions for the recent merger of AT&T and DIRECTV. What he finds is another example of the FCC going rogue with regulation. An excerpt:
The merger’s pricing condition is retail rate regulation, but it’s far worse than what “was done in the pre-broadband days.” In old-fashioned rate-making cases, the FCC is required to justify the rate it imposes. The merger order “doesn’t even make a cursory attempt to explain how it arrived at this $10 price point” or why price regulation should apply to AT&T only and not its competitors.
What rules violation or competitive harm did the referee cite for throwing the retail rate regulation flag at AT&T only? None. The FCC penalized AT&T because it can. Unfortunately, no referee exists to throw a flag when the FCC discriminates against companies in a merger proceeding.
Campbell’s conclusion is that Congress needs to apply more oversight on FCC decisions:
The integrity of any game depends on the credibility of its officiating. That’s why the NFL watches its referees to make sure they are abiding by the rules too. When fans can’t trust officials to make a fair call, the league needs to reign in its referees. With the FCC, that task belongs to Congress.
Last week, we held a discussion in Washington DC on how regulators can help — rather than hinder — the broadband economy. The featured speaker at this event was FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who delivered his vision for how the FCC and other regulatory bodies should fulfill their vital role in the face of the fast-moving technology. An excerpt from Commission O’Rielly’s speech:
As regulators consider proposals that would impact the Internet or the deployment of broadband, thoughtful analysis should be done prior to enactment to consider whether the costs and burdens imposed are greater than the benefits of acting. Given the amazing positives to be gained from an Internet free and open from government intrusion — or at least significant government intervention — there should be a universal requirement for quantifiable data under a cost-benefit analysis regime. It seems universally accepted that there are direct and indirect costs to every burden placed on Internet activities. It should be our duty to show the detailed costs and benefits of every proposal, not hypothetical claims that give short shrift to statutory requirements to do an actual analysis. If a regulator involved in some capacity with the Internet cannot accept this basic premise, maybe they are in the wrong line of work.
Let me also take a moment to provide a few other premises that most people who operate in this space accept: Internet-related taxes depress deployment and adoption; costs of regulations are ultimately passed onto consumers; and the structure of the Internet will produce some type of reaction to undermine any imposed regulation. If these premises are accepted, and they have proven to betrue time and time again, it means that regulators need to be extremely cautious in acting or risk decreasing deployment, or raising prices — and all for naught.
You can read Commissioner O’Rielly’s full remarks — and watch a video of the event, which also featured Stuart N. Brotman of the Brookings Institution, James Reid from TIA, Susan Bitter Smith of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and our own Bruce Mehlman — by clicking here.
Update: You can read Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s full remarks here.
The Role for Regulators in an Expanding Broadband Economy
Innovation, convergence and rapid technological advances are rapidly reshaping the Internet ecosystem and how Washington’s legislators and regulators approach national broadband policymaking. Ongoing consideration of new policies will shape the future of an Open Internet for the 21st century.
The Internet Innovation Alliance invites you to join a policy discussion that will address:
• The appropriate role for regulators in an expanding broadband economy;
• The impact of different regulatory approaches toward the Internet and its meaning for the broadband economy;
• Congress’ role going forward in setting clear rules of the road for the Open Internet;
• The interrelationship between regulation and investment in broadband, and what, if any, impact it will have on potential legislative action going forward.
Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Followed by a panel discussion including
Stuart N. Brotman
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Center for Technology Innovation
The Brookings Institution
Randolph J. May
President, Free State Foundation
Senior Vice President of Government Affairs,
Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)
Susan Bitter Smith
Chairman, Arizona Corporation Commission
Bruce Mehlman (Moderator)
Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance
Yesterday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai had some strong words about the Commission and President Obama’s apparent plans to apply Title II regulations to the Internet. He started off with a bang, stating:
I believe the public has a right to know what its government is doing, particularly when it comes to something as important as Internet regulation. I have studied the 332-page plan in detail, and it is worse than I had imagined. So today, I want to correct the record and explain key aspects of what President Obama’s plan will actually do.
Pai then broke down six points he believes the public are being “misled” about by the President and the FCC. Those six points are:
1. The plan doesn’t include rate regulation, a claim Commissioner Pai calls “flat-out false.” From his statement:
The plan repeatedly states that the FCC will apply sections 201 and 202 of the Communications Act, including their rate regulation provisions, to determine whether the prices charge by broadband providers are “unjust or unreasonable… Thus, for the first time, the FCC would claim the power to declare broadband Internet rates and charges unreasonable after the fact.
2. The plan is aimed at pro-competitive broadband service offerings that benefit consumers, which Pai warns will actually create a regulatory headache. His words:
The plan expressly states that usage-based pricing, data allowances — really, any offers other than an unlimited, all-you-can-eat data plan — are now subject to regulation. Indeed, the plan finds that these practices will be subject to case-by-case review under the plan’s new “Internet conduct” standard.
Pai also warns that the plan clearly places things like data allowances on mobile “on the chopping block,” which could mean consumers using less data will end up paying for those who use more.
3. In contrast to the “light-touch” regulation that has been applied to the Internet up until now, the plan gives the unelected members of the FCC “broad and unprecedented discretion to micromanage the Internet.” How? Well, Pai held up interconnection as an example, stating:
The plan states that the FCC can determine when a broadband provider must establish physical interconnection points, where they must locate those points, how much they can charge for the provision of that infrastructure, and how they will route traffic over those connections.
4. The real winners from the plan will, in fact, be lawyers. Pai again:
The plan allows class-action lawsuits — with attorneys’ fees — should any trial lawyer want to challenge an Internet service provider’s network management practices or rates. Indeed, the plan expressly declines to forbear from sections 206 and 207 of the Act, which authorize such private rights of action.
Translated: Get ready for a flurry of lawsuits. Or, as Pai described it, “more litigation and less innovation.”
5. The plan is ripe for regulatory creep. Specifically:
The plan is quite clear about the limited duration of its forbearance determinations, stating that the FCC will revisit the forbearance determinations in the future and proceed in an incremental manner with respect to additional regulation. In other words, over time, expect regulation to ratchet up and forbearance to fade.
6. The plan “opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband.” This point, really, should concern everyone outside of the regulatory bubble. Pai’s explanation:
The plan repeatedly states that it is only deferring a decision on new broadband taxes (such as Universal Service Fund fees and Telecommunications Relay Service fees, among others)—not prohibiting them. And it takes pains to make clear that nothing in the draft is intended to foreclose future state or federal tax increases. Indeed, the plan engage in the same two-step we saw last year with respect to the E-Rate program: Lay the groundwork to increase taxes in the first order, then raise them in the second. One independent estimate puts the price tag of these and other fees at $11 billion.
That’s $11 billion that would be passed on to consumers, by the way, all so the FCC can apply outdated, railroad-era regulation in order to achieve something we already have: an open Internet.
Pai ended his remarks by calling on the President and the FCC to release the plan to the public before the Commission enshrines it into law. “We should have an open, transparent debate,” he stated, and given the six points described above, it’s hard to argue with him. Here’s hoping the President and Pai’s fellow Commissioners are listening.
As with most heated debates, the current net neutrality kerfuffle has been heavy on rhetoric and light on facts.
Sure, those of us who believe the Internet has thrived — and will continue to thrive — without the heavy mitts of regulation point to study after study after article (most recently from the Progressive Policy Institute, of all places) warning that Title II reclassification would do much more harm than good for the open Internet, but facts and research aren’t nearly as effective as facetious cries about a “two-tiered Internet!” and “They are coming for your Netflix!”
That being said, since I’m a glutton for punishment I’m going to highlight yet another article, this one penned by economist (and IIA friend) Bret Swanson for the Wall Street Journal.
Swanson’s piece has a blunt title — “The U.S. Leads the World in Broadband” — and rather than shouting about the Internet sky falling, he crunches some numbers to show that… well, just what the title says.
Mr. Obama recently called on the FCC to impose “the strongest possible rules” on Internet service providers to make sure they don’t “limit your access to a website” or “decide which online stores you should shop at or which streaming services you can use.”
Neither of these rationales for regulatory intervention is true, however, and there’s a simple way to show it. An international comparison of Internet traffic can tell us about the quality of broadband networks and the vibrancy and openness of content markets. Traffic represents all the bits flowing over our networks—email, websites, texts, chats, photos, digital books and movies, video clips, social feeds, searches, transactions, cloud interactions, phone and video calls, interactive maps and apps, software downloads, and much more.
And just what did the numbers tell Swanson?
What I found was that at 18.6 exabytes (18.6 billion gigabytes) a month, the U.S. generates far more traffic per capita and per Internet user than any other major nation save South Korea, which is a vertical metropolis and thus easy to wire with fiber optics. U.S. traffic per capita is 2.1 times that of Japan and 2.7 times that of Western Europe. Several years ago, U.S. and Canadian traffic measures were similar, but today the U.S. has raced ahead by 25%.
The U.S. lead is similar in traffic per Internet user, which tends to reflect how intensely people use broadband and mobile connections. The U.S. outdoes its closest European rival, the U.K., by 57%. The U.S. outdoes all of Western Europe—the best comparison in terms of geography, population and economic development—by a factor of 2.5.
All due respect to my friends and colleagues on the other side of the Title II debate, but does that look like the U.S. broadband market is hurting? Is the Internet really in need of saving by the unelected officials at the FCC?
Perhaps the most exacerbating thing about the Title II argument is the fact that both sides want essentially the same thing — for the Internet to stay open and thriving. What we disagree on is which tool, if any, the FCC should use.
Given the very real threats of reduced private investment in, and increased prices for, broadband that Title II could usher in, the choice should be simple. As Swanson writes:
The U.S., with 4% of the world’s population, has 10% of its Internet users, 25% of its broadband investment and 32% of its consumer Internet traffic. The U.S. policy of Internet freedom has worked. Why does Washington want to intervene in a thriving market?
As the FCC continues to mull its path toward ensuring net neutrality, none other than the Progressive Policy Institute has published new research highlighting just how much damage Title II reclassification could mean for consumers. An excerpt:
Self-styled consumer advocates are pressuring federal regulators to “reclassify” access to the Internet as a public utility. If they get their way, U.S. consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for both residential fixed and wireless broadband services.
How deep? We have calculated that the average annual increase in state and local fees levied on U.S. wireline and wireless broadband subscribers will be $67 and $72, respectively. And the annual increase in federal fees per household will be roughly $17. When you add it all up, reclassification could add a whopping $17 billion in new user fees on top of the planned $1.5 billion extra to fund the E-Rate program. The higher fees would come on top of the adverse impact on consumers of less investment and slower innovation that would result from reclassification.
We can all agree that the Internet must continue to be open, but as the Title II debate shows, not everyone seems to understand just what reclassifying Internet service would mean. Hopefully, research from the likes of the Progressive Policy Institute will help bring everyone up to speed. You can check out their full report here.
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher has an op-ed in The Hill on how outdated regulations are limiting competition when it comes to broadband. An excerpt:
Consumers are fleeing the old network in droves. Only 5 percent use it exclusively, and another 28 percent use it in combination with a wireless service. Two-thirds of communications users have left the old network entirely. Every dollar telcos are required to spend on a network consumers are abandoning is a dollar not spent on deploying the modern networks that consumers prefer. Viewed in this light, the USTA plea for relief is entirely understandable — and it’s entirely justified.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he wants more “meaningful competition” in high-speed broadband, particularly between telecom companies and cable providers. As Wheeler put it, these new broadband entrants are “well-positioned to give cable a run for its money, offering consumers greater choice.” This is exactly how it should work.
A new paper from Progressive Policy Institute Senior Fellow Hal Singer and Brookings Non-Resident Senior Fellow Robert Litan examines the effect Title II regulations could have on investment and the Internet ecosystem as a whole. An excerpt:
Imposing public-utility style regulation on Internet access would dampen innovation and investment in more, faster broadband. We propose the FCC implement the same case-by-case process to adjudicate discrimination complaints it has established for cable companies to broadband providers.
It’s not just investment from traditional ISPs that could be negatively effected, Singer and Litan also warn. Many companies that provide services on the Internet could also find themselves among those regulated under Title II:
Reclassifying Internet access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II, as supplemented by the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, opens up the possibility that other tech services meet the same test. The clearest example would be Google’s ultra-fast broadband service, Google Fiber, which the company is gradually rolling out. But it does not stop there. There is a very slippery slope from subjecting ISPs as common carriers to including other forms of Internet transmissions, because they arguably use “telecommunications services,” the legal hook in Title II for its application.
For example, why not then include within the ambit of a telecommunications service the linkage to an advertiser’s website that Google and Microsoft provide for users of their search engines? By clicking on links, the search engine uses the Internet backbone; if Internet access is a “telecommunications service,” because it provides “transmissions,” then so, too, are the search engines. The same logic potentially applies to Amazon’s Kindle book reader device and service, because its owners are able to download books from Amazon, but only because they are connected to a wireless provider of Internet access in the process. Indeed, what would stop the FCC from classifying as Title II common carriers all device makers that have a connection to an ISP?
It’s not all concern and dire warnings in Singer and Litan’s paper, however, as the duo argue the FCC should focus its efforts on something already within its power:
[W]e think the FCC should eschew the heavy-handed approach of Title II regulation, and lean instead on its Section 706 authority to regulate potential abuses by ISPs on a case-by-case basis. Investment across both edge and content providers will be greater compared to Title II, and the FCC can avoid any unintended consequences such as creeping regulation that encompasses content providers or other ISP services.
Given all the faulty information being tossed around about regulating broadband under Title II, Patrick Brogan of US Telecom has posted a blog correcting inaccuracies being spread by some of the biggest interest groups. An excerpt:
In comments filed at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and in an earlier blog, net neutrality proponent Free Press, is making a puzzling and questionable claim that broadband investment will not be harmed by reclassification to common carrier regulation under Title II of the Communications Act. In fact, Free Press makes the incorrect claim that “Title II is good for the economy” and actually promotes broadband investment.
On the contrary, a reclassification to Title II would create unambiguously negative pressures on broadband provider investment that would not exist absent reclassification. The question is one of degree and the relative weight compared to opposing forces, like demand and competition. At a minimum, Title II reclassification seems unnecessarily risky and potentially counterproductive for policy goals dependent on more investment, such as expanding deployment to all parts of the country and enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.
Expanding consumer options and preferences has forever broken down traditional standalone wire line, wireless, cable and broadcast services. According to Kovacs, 89% of households subscribed to wireless voice by the end of 2013, either by itself or in combination with some supplemental type of wired voice service.
Additionally, 29% of consumers prefer the blend of wireless service with plain old telephone service (with voice capabilities) and 22% with voice over internet protocol. Those figures are corroborated by a recent Pew Research Center study, which shows that as of 2013, 70% of adults had fixed-broadband access from home, a number that rises to 80% when access via smartphone is included. And most notable, are the 38% of consumers who rely solely on wireless.
Given this data it is clear many households are combining some form of fixed broadband (including some forms of fixed wireless) with mobile wireless broadband. All of this underscores the need for a new regulatory network framework based on the recognition of the diversity of consumers and the various choices they have today in a 21st century broadband world.
Check out Ramos’s full piece over at The Huffington Post.
In an op-ed for The Street, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman argues that applying regulations from 1934 to today’s data services is a terrible idea. An excerpt:
Reclassification would lead to extreme uncertainty.
Regulatory uncertainty is the enemy of investment and innovation. Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers recently wrote the FCC that his company “...is deeply troubled by the proposals” for reclassification, warning that $60 billion a year in broadband investment could be threatened.
Chambers argues that “If Title II regulation is brought to broadband Internet access services, investment in new infrastructure will be severely hamstrung. New, innovative services may not be brought to market because entrepreneurs fear telecommunications regulation.”
Here’s the basic problem: As technology advances and as companies work ever harder to meet growing consumer demand, the old distinction between companies that focus on “transmission” and those that focus on “content” is vanishing. Each can own networks; each can (and often does) provide data and voice services. Convergence and cross-platform competition are the order of the day, yet Title II would shackle ISPs and some of the world’s most innovative companies with a regulatory regime designed for the 1930s telephone monopoly. It makes no sense.
Via Mike Dano of Fierce Wireless, a new report predicts that investment in wireless networks won’t be slowing down anytime soon — assuming policymakers don’t throw a wrench in a well-oiled machine, that is. As Dano writes:
According to a new report from the Telecommunications Industry Association, U.S. wireless carriers will spend a total of $159.3 billion on wireless network equipment and infrastructure during the next four years, up fully 40 percent from the $113.9 billion in cumulative spending during the previous four years.
Wireless carriers have been some of the biggest investors in America’s economy for years now, which is one of the reasons placing heavy-handed regulations on the industry is a really bad idea.
Any update to the Communications Act will take a while to make happen, especially since — as Julian Hattern for The Hillhighlights today — the Senate is unlikely to get started soon:
The Senate won’t be following the House’s lead this year to overhaul the sweeping law regulating the TV, radio and other communications services, which has not been updated since the rapid growth of the Internet.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has begun to probe ways to bring the Communications Act into the 21st Century, but Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said on Tuesday that the Senate Commerce Committee, of which he is a member, probably won’t be following suit in 2014.
“I doubt we’ll do anything this year but I know that the House has been saying that they want to open that and certainly we’ll be seeing what they want to do,” said Pryor, chairman of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Communications, at a winter meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Washington.
Still, any step toward updating the relic of an Act is a positive one. As our own Rick Boucher — who played a major part in the last update of the Communications Act — wrote in a recent op-ed for Roll Call. As Boucher wrote:
Today, the FCC is both catching up and leading. It must catch up to the large majority of Americans who have made their own personal transition to smartphones, tablets and other devices that provide 24/7 connectivity to the Internet and its treasure trove of information and entertainment. At the same time, the agency also must lead by joining Congress in crafting an updated regulatory framework that supports continued innovation and network expansion and extending a helping hand to guide the minority of Americans who have not yet joined the digital world.
To complete the journey, Congress and the FCC must clear the road of outdated rules that made sense for the telephone monopoly era of the 20th century but which now slow the shift to the multitasking digital networks of the future. For example, the old rules require local phone companies to invest billions of dollars every year in the old voice telephone network that droves of Americans abandon every day. Every dollar spent on the aging, single-purpose analog phone system consumers are fleeing is one less dollar invested in multifunctional modern digital networks consumers prefer.
Back in 1996, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher played a major role in crafting the Telecommunications Act. For the Act’s 18th anniversary, he penned an op-ed for The Hill arguing that outdated regulations and the shift to broadband-based networks need to be the focus of any Act going forward. As Boucher writes:
The ’96 Act accomplished everything we intended. It unleashed a golden era of competition, service improvements, technological advancements and massive investments in high-speed broadband-capable networks. With the right public policies in place — policies favoring investments and newer technologies consumers want — this golden age will continue for all Americans.
The transition to IP networks, and the policy modernization that will accompany it, represent the largest telecom changes since the ’96 Act. It’s going to be an exciting several years.
At the official blog of the Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Tom Wheeler lays out the Commission’s commitment to achieving the transition to all-Internet based networks. As the Chairman writes:
Among the biggest changes the FCC must confront are the IP transitions. Note the use of the plural “transitions.” Circuit switching is being replaced by more efficient networks – made of fiber or copper or wireless. Greater efficiency in networks can translate into greater innovation and greater benefits for network operators and users alike.
The best way to speed technology transitions is to incent network investment and innovation by preserving the enduring values that consumers and businesses have come to expect. Those values: public safety, interconnection, competition, consumer protection and, of course, universal access, are not only familiar, they are fundamental.
Government must play a key role throughout this process by advancing consumer interests with a transition plan guided by core principles. These basic protections will remain government’s responsibility even after the old phone system is shut down:
1. The commitment to universal service must endure. Next-generation high-speed broadband networks and their benefits must be available to every American. As we move beyond the old phone network, we cannot leave anybody behind. Without dictating specific technologies or micro-managing how communications competitors meet their public service obligations, we must push the envelope to ensure that every American can access modern broadband service and enjoy the benefits that come with it. At a minimum, post transition everybody should enjoy service at least as good as they can now receive from copper-wire phone networks.
2. Public safety must be assured. 911 emergency calls must go through—every single time—no matter what technology or services consumers adopt.
3. Services for the hearing-impaired and those with vision problems also must be retained at levels that at least match what consumers enjoy today.
4. Consumer protection must remain at the heart of communications policy. Consumers must know that government has their back; that service providers will deliver on their promises; that spotty service, fraud, or other abuses will not be tolerated. Consumers must have a place to take complaints with confidence that something will be done about them.
5. Establishing a backup plan for power failures should be part of the transition process. The rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy exposed some potential weaknesses in the way our digital technology works today. While fiber-optic-based systems tolerate water damage that can short out copper wires, they are more vulnerable when the electricity at the user’s premises goes out.
6. Special retrofitting and other creative solutions may be required to ensure that modern networks function fully with personal and business equipment such as fax machines, security systems, health monitors, and credit card readers, even though they may not currently be compatible with today’s broadband connections.
While it’s encouraging Chairman Wheeler is taking the plunge when it comes to the IP Transition, in reality it’s just one of the major issues the FCC will face under his watch. As our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman argued in December, outdated regulations could make many of the FCC’s work difficult:
At the FCC, Wheeler inherits a regulatory regime designed decades ago for an earlier era. Voice and video services are regulated under separate provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 (Title II and Title VI, respectively) based on assumptions of a permanent monopoly and massive barriers to entry. The Act and its subsequent amendments fundamentally fail to acknowledge the competitive alternatives created by the technological and marketplace convergence of the broadband age. Today’s FCC-enforced regulatory framework was designed for a world without Netflix Inc., Skype Communications, Google Inc., or iPhones — a world without the Internet. Thus, the agency remains stuck in the past, distinguishing among companies based on the technology they use and their legacy status under the Act. Consumers make no such distinctions.
That Chairman Wheeler and the Commissioners at the FCC are already rolling up their sleeves for the IP Transition should be applauded. But it’s just one of many issues the Commission needs to dive into in the next 12 months.
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The Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site may contain links to other Web Sites (“Linked Sites”). The Linked Sites are not under the control of Internet Innovation Alliance and Internet Innovation Alliance is not responsible for the contents of any Linked Site, including without limitation any link contained in a Linked Site, or any changes or updates to a Linked Site. Internet Innovation Alliance is not responsible for webcasting or any other form of transmission received from any Linked Site. Internet Innovation Alliance is providing these links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement by Internet Innovation Alliance of the site or any association with its operators.
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As a condition of your use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site, you warrant to Internet Innovation Alliance that you will not use the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site for any purpose that is unlawful or prohibited by these terms, conditions, and notices. You may not use the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site in any manner which could damage, disable, overburden, or impair the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site or interfere with any other party’s use and enjoyment of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site. You may not obtain or attempt to obtain any materials or information through any means not intentionally made available or provided for through the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Sites.
USE OF COMMUNICATION SERVICES
The Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site may contain bulletin board services, chat areas, news groups, forums, communities, personal web pages, calendars, and/or other message or communication facilities designed to enable you to communicate with the public at large or with a group (collectively, “Communication Services”), you agree to use the Communication Services only to post, send and receive messages and material that are proper and related to the particular Communication Service. By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree that when using a Communication Service, you will not:
Defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the legal rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others.
Publish, post, upload, distribute or disseminate any inappropriate, profane, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent or unlawful topic, name, material or information.
Upload files that contain software or other material protected by intellectual property laws (or by rights of privacy of publicity) unless you own or control the rights thereto or have received all necessary consents.
Upload files that contain viruses, corrupted files, or any other similar software or programs that may damage the operation of another’s computer.
Advertise or offer to sell or buy any goods or services for any business purpose, unless such Communication Service specifically allows such messages.
Conduct or forward surveys, contests, pyramid schemes or chain letters.
Download any file posted by another user of a Communication Service that you know, or reasonably should know, cannot be legally distributed in such manner.
Falsify or delete any author attributions, legal or other proper notices or proprietary designations or labels of the origin or source of software or other material contained in a file that is uploaded.
Restrict or inhibit any other user from using and enjoying the Communication Services.
Violate any code of conduct or other guidelines which may be applicable for any particular Communication Service.
Harvest or otherwise collect information about others, including e-mail addresses, without their consent.
Violate any applicable laws or regulations.
Internet Innovation Alliance has no obligation to monitor the Communication Services. However, Internet Innovation Alliance reserves the right to review materials posted to a Communication Service and to remove any materials in its sole discretion. Internet Innovation Alliance reserves the right to terminate your access to any or all of the Communication Services at any time without notice for any reason whatsoever.
Internet Innovation Alliance reserves the right at all times to disclose any information as necessary to satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request, or to edit, refuse to post or to remove any information or materials, in whole or in part, in Internet Innovation Alliance’s sole discretion.
Always use caution when giving out any personally identifying information about yourself or your children in any Communication Service. Internet Innovation Alliance does not control or endorse the content, messages or information found in any Communication Service and, therefore, Internet Innovation Alliance specifically disclaims any liability with regard to the Communication Services and any actions resulting from your participation in any Communication Service. Managers and hosts are not authorized Internet Innovation Alliance spokespersons, and their views do not necessarily reflect those of Internet Innovation Alliance.
Materials uploaded to a Communication Service may be subject to posted limitations on usage, reproduction and/or dissemination. You are responsible for adhering to such limitations if you download the materials.
MATERIALS PROVIDED TO Internet Innovation Alliance OR POSTED AT ANY Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE
Internet Innovation Alliance does not claim ownership of the materials you provide to Internet Innovation Alliance (including feedback and suggestions) or post, upload, input or submit to any Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site or its associated services (collectively “Submissions”). However, by posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting your Submission you are granting Internet Innovation Alliance, its affiliated companies and necessary sublicensees permission to use your Submission in connection with the operation of their Internet businesses including, without limitation, the rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your Submission; and to publish your name in connection with your Submission.
No compensation will be paid with respect to the use of your Submission, as provided herein. Internet Innovation Alliance is under no obligation to post or use any Submission you may provide and may remove any Submission at any time in Internet Innovation Alliance’s sole discretion.
By posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting your Submission you warrant and represent that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to your Submission as described in this section including, without limitation, all the rights necessary for you to provide, post, upload, input or submit the Submissions.
THE INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, AND SERVICES INCLUDED IN OR AVAILABLE THROUGH THE Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE MAY INCLUDE INACCURACIES OR TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS. CHANGES ARE PERIODICALLY ADDED TO THE INFORMATION HEREIN. Internet Innovation Alliance AND/OR ITS SUPPLIERS MAY MAKE IMPROVEMENTS AND/OR CHANGES IN THE Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE AT ANY TIME. ADVICE RECEIVED VIA THE Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON FOR PERSONAL, MEDICAL, LEGAL OR FINANCIAL DECISIONS AND YOU SHOULD CONSULT AN APPROPRIATE PROFESSIONAL FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE TAILORED TO YOUR SITUATION.
Internet Innovation Alliance AND/OR ITS SUPPLIERS MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS ABOUT THE SUITABILITY, RELIABILITY, AVAILABILITY, TIMELINESS, AND ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS CONTAINED ON THE Internet Innovation Alliance WEB SITE FOR ANY PURPOSE. TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, ALL SUCH INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS ARE PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF ANY KIND. Internet Innovation Alliance AND/OR ITS SUPPLIERS HEREBY DISCLAIM ALL WARRANTIES AND CONDITIONS WITH REGARD TO THIS INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND RELATED GRAPHICS, INCLUDING ALL IMPLIED WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, TITLE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT.
Internet Innovation Alliance reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate your access to the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site and the related services or any portion thereof at any time, without notice. GENERAL To the maximum extent permitted by law, this agreement is governed by the laws of the State of Washington, U.S.A. and you hereby consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of courts in King County, Washington, U.S.A. in all disputes arising out of or relating to the use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site. Use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site is unauthorized in any jurisdiction that does not give effect to all provisions of these terms and conditions, including without limitation this paragraph. You agree that no joint venture, partnership, employment, or agency relationship exists between you and Internet Innovation Alliance as a result of this agreement or use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site. Internet Innovation Alliance’s performance of this agreement is subject to existing laws and legal process, and nothing contained in this agreement is in derogation of Internet Innovation Alliance’s right to comply with governmental, court and law enforcement requests or requirements relating to your use of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site or information provided to or gathered by Internet Innovation Alliance with respect to such use. If any part of this agreement is determined to be invalid or unenforceable pursuant to applicable law including, but not limited to, the warranty disclaimers and liability limitations set forth above, then the invalid or unenforceable provision will be deemed superseded by a valid, enforceable provision that most closely matches the intent of the original provision and the remainder of the agreement shall continue in effect. Unless otherwise specified herein, this agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the user and Internet Innovation Alliance with respect to the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site and it supersedes all prior or contemporaneous communications and proposals, whether electronic, oral or written, between the user and Internet Innovation Alliance with respect to the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site. A printed version of this agreement and of any notice given in electronic form shall be admissible in judicial or administrative proceedings based upon or relating to this agreement to the same extent an d subject to the same conditions as other business documents and records originally generated and maintained in printed form. It is the express wish to the parties that this agreement and all related documents be drawn up in English.
COPYRIGHT AND TRADEMARK NOTICES:
All contents of the Internet Innovation Alliance Web Site are: and/or its suppliers. All rights reserved.
The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.
The example companies, organizations, products, people and events depicted herein are fictitious. No association with any real company, organization, product, person, or event is intended or should be inferred.
Any rights not expressly granted herein are reserved.
NOTICES AND PROCEDURE FOR MAKING CLAIMS OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
Pursuant to Title 17, United States Code, Section 512(c)(2), notifications of claimed copyright infringement under United States copyright law should be sent to Service Provider’s Designated Agent. ALL INQUIRIES NOT RELEVANT TO THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURE WILL RECEIVE NO RESPONSE. See Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement.