Would you rather see bad policy applied uniformly or selectively? That’s the question raised by a letter from four House Democrats to the FCC proposing a “single technology mandate” for some cell networks but not for others.
We’ve previously written and filed FCC comments on cell phone mandates in the 700 MHz band, explaining the reasons that the Verizon and AT&T branded iPhones and Androids aren’t fully interoperable; we’ve also suggested things the FCC can do to increase the range of handset choices for subscribers to small, rural cell companies. Technology mandates amount to under-the-table subsidies paid by the customers of big cellular companies and received by the customers of smaller ones and therefore aren’t desirable as they simply rob Peter to pay Paul.
Adding support for additional bands and channels in a cell phone adds to the recurring cost of hardware in the form of additional circuits and antennas, increases power consumption, increases size and weight, and exposes the phone to more interference, especially from TV channel 51. If there were a regulatory requirement for interoperability among all phones sold by all carriers, consumers would not only pay … Read the rest
Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, Susan Crawford’s long-awaited tome on the Comcast/NBC merger, will be officially released tomorrow in what may be the publishing industry’s biggest anticlimax of the year. The book has an engaging, novelistic style, offering a gritty description of the atmosphere and the players at a Senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on the merger in early 2010, but the gripping drama of the Congressional hearing doesn’t excuse Crawford’s shallow analysis of its subject matter.
Beyond the lively exposition of the hearing, the book relies on a series of anecdotes and strained historical analogies – and precious little hard data – to make a case for Crawford’s pet policy prescription, “broadband unbundling.” Unbundling would be a new status quo, reducing broadband service providers to the smallest possible role in communications services, that of a wiring plant maintainer lacking the power to move a single bit on its own. This would put both the financial and the technical bases of broadband in a severe bind, of course. Experiments with unbundling have shown that it can reduce consumer prices only temporarily, … Read the rest
efore Thanksgiving, we released a report on the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, warning that some bad things were likely to happen at this obscure confab of the 193 nation ITU. We were particularly worried about four things:
- Attempts to impose international interconnection fees, similar to PSTN practice.
- Attempts to expand censorship and surveillance in autocratic states
- China’s desire to convert ITU-T “Recommendations,” which are voluntary technical standards today, into mandatory regulations.
- Russia’s desire to transfer the management of Internet addresses and assigned names and numbers from ICANN to the ITU.
Most other people were worried about the outcome of WCIT, but a few were full of sunshine and roses all along: … Read the rest
Tomorrow the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing with all five FCC commissioners to examine the upcoming spectrum incentive auction. The committee memo on the hearing says the two main issues to be examined are “unlicensed spectrum and bidder eligibility,” two areas of perpetual friction between the Committee’s Republican leadership and the Democratic majority at the FCC. The auction was authorized by the 2012 Public Safety and Spectrum Act, so the Commission is required to abide by its conditions, and the Committee isn’t at all convinced that the FCC has its heart in the right place.
The two key issues are among the most contentious issues in U. S. spectrum policy because they deal with the first order allocation of spectrum in the civilian sector between free, unlicensed uses and fee-based, licensed ones on the one hand, and limits on licensed spectrum holdings on the other. So the structure of the auction will determine how much of the spectrum relinquished by TV broadcasters will go to licensed uses and who can buy the licenses.
The FCC is under pressure to increase allocations for unlicensed beyond the dictates … Read the rest
OK, this is almost too easy to bother with, but I can’t help myself. Last week a former journalist with a book to sell wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times touting the “woe is us, our network sucks” premise of said book. Because it neatly encapsulates the nonsensical thinking of so many people, it’s worth comparing it to the facts to see just how poorly it stacks up. So in the finest traditions of blogging, here we go with a “fisking” of David Cay Johnston’s “Bad Connections” and his related book,”The Fine Print: How Big companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind,” not to be confused with his previous classic, “Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business” on the mafia.
He begins his New York Times Op-Ed with the following pearl:
SINCE 1974, when the Justice Department sued to break up the Ma Bell phone monopoly, Americans have been told that competition in telecommunications would produce innovation, better service and lower prices.
What we’ve witnessed instead is low-quality service and prices
In case you’re an ITU-watcher and you haven’t seen my report on the World Conference on International Telecommunications (currently running in Dubai until the 14th,) it’s here. For the rest, here’s the background:
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU,) formerly known as the International Telegraph Union, is an agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating global telecommunications. Primarily, it manages the global use of the telephone network, harmonizes radio frequency spectrum assignments, and establishes worldwide telecommunications standards and interconnection practices. At its upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai from December 3 – 14, ITU will consider a number of proposals that would expand the scope of its power to Internet regulation, interconnection, and governance as well as to the information technology (IT) sector generally.
These proposals, if adopted in full, would transform ITU from an international telecommunications sector regulator to an “Information Technology and Communications (ICT) regulator,” vastly expanding its reach. The mechanism for this expansion is amendment of the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs,) treaties that specify the ITU’s duties and the common agreements among its 193 member states.
Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of … Read the rest
One of the unfortunate consequences of events like the Northeast “Frankenstorm” is the speed with which they’re exploited for various kinds of gain. When food and water are short, vendors show up on street corners selling goods at exorbitant prices, looters rob stores of computers and that sort of thing. After the fact, many people with a policy ax of some sort will point to various things that happened as examples of tragedies and inconveniences that could have been avoided if only they’d had their way in the policy process. The National Association of Broadcasters jumped on Frankenstorm with a rather thin argument to the effect that the storm proves their networks are great for communication, despite their one-way nature. Another example of this phenomenon that struck me as particularly odd was a blog post written by Harold Feld on Wetmachine before the storm had even hit: If your cell tower loses power, be sure to thank CTIA and the D.C. Circuit. Feld argues that the FCC needs broad Title I authority over Title III cellular networks to keep them running after hurricanes strike:
As we hunker down to
Readers of this blog are aware that the telephone network is a relic of the past that will someday join the telegraph terminal and the buggy whip in the dustbin of history; the only question is when. For telephone network operators, sooner is better than later because the costs of supporting an archaic network with a dwindling number of users are an unsustainable drag on investment in the up-to-date broadband networks, both mobile and fixed, that have taken its place.
AT&T shows what’s at stake in a blog post on two very closely related initiatives, one on the investment side and the other in the regulatory sphere, Building a Network for the 21st Century | AT&T Public Policy Blog. … Read the rest
Two recent posts on TechCrunch about tech industry efforts to influence and work with government deserve comment, because one clearly shows the right way to go while the other just as clearly exemplifies the wrong way. We’ll take them in time sequence, starting with how not to do things.
Three geeks go into a bar. Several drinks later, they determine that all it takes to solve the world’s problems is a new web site to crowdsource amendments to acts of Congress.
If you’ve been following technogeek efforts at leveraging the Web to magnify tech political influence for very long, you’ve heard this story several times. Larry Lessig, Tim Wu, and their cronies at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society have been on this mission since the turn of the century. They’ve been joined by the folks who believed blogs were going to change the world, such as the founders of Personal Democracy Forum and MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito, an early investor in blogging platform Moveable Type. When congressman Darrell Issa wrote his alternative to SOPA, the OPEN Act … Read the rest
As this is a presidential election year, it’s not surprising that the the “silly season” of politics has been extended into the baseball playoffs. A group of political extremists organized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has filed a complaint with the FCC over the privacy disclosures for an old consumer broadband measurement program. This isn’t the program that the Commission conducts every year with Sam Knows that leads to an annual report comparing actual broadband speeds to advertised ones, but to a program that was developed by the National Broadband Plan some three years ago to provide the team with a snapshot of performance.
The letter has me wondering whether the advocates: (a) Have just come out of a three year coma; and (b) Have any idea at all about how the Internet works. There are also some distortions of law that will slap attorneys in the face. Please read the letter, but sit down first so you don’t hurt yourself rolling on the floor laughing at its circular logic.
Like many government programs that collect information that might be considered personal and sensitive, the FCC’s broadband measurement program … Read the rest