Net Neutrality

Profitable to favor your competitor

DirecTV and Verizon’s FiOS service have recently announced app stores modeled directly on Apple’s App Store, notes the New York Times. This doesn’t seem consistent with the rationale for the proposed “Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009,” (H.R. 3458) introduced by Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), which assumes that broadband service providers will discriminate against unaffiliated applications in the absence of heavy-handed regulation. Internet access service providers have an economic interest to discriminate in favor of their own services, content, and applications and against other providers. A network neutrality policy based upon the principle of nondiscrimination and consistent with the history of the Internet’s development is essential to ensure that Internet services remain open to all consumers, Read More ›

Legacy regulation killed Google Voice

Reacting to Apple’s decision to not allow Google Voice for the iPhone, Wall Street Journal guest columnist Andy Kessler complains, It wouldn’t be so bad if we were just overpaying for our mobile plans. Americans are used to that–see mail, milk and medicine. But it’s inexcusable that new, feature-rich and productive applications like Google Voice are being held back, just to prop up AT&T while we wait for it to transition away from its legacy of voice communications. How many productive apps beyond Google Voice are waiting in the wings? So Kessler proposes a “national data plan.” Before we get to that, Kessler complains that margins in AT&T’s cellphone unit are an “embarrassingly” high 25%. He doesn’t point out that Read More ›

Exclusive handsets aren’t killing rivals

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski promised to investigate exclusivity arrangements between handset manufacturers and wireless carriers and “act accordingly to promote competition and consumer choice.” But according to Nielsen, only 6.4 percent of 25,000 wireless users surveyed rated choice of handset as the most important factor in choosing wireless service. Prohibiting exclusive handset deals doesn’t sound like a very good use of the FCC’s time if only 6.4 percent of consumers care enough about a particular handset that it would affect their choice of wireless service. A representative of one of the smaller rivals who are seeking FCC intervention claims that exclusive handset deals have made it “significantly harder for smaller carriers to attract and retain subscribers, and to effectively compete Read More ›

Welcome to the revolution

If you ever wondered how net neutrality could possibly arouse as much passion as it does, The Bullet, a socialist newsletter from Canada, has an illuminating interview with Free Press co-founder Robert W. McChesney in which he discusses the big picture: … Instead of waiting for the revolution to happen, we learned that unless you make significant changes in the media, it will be vastly more difficult to have a revolution. While the media is not the single most important issue in the world, it is one of the core issues that any successful Left project needs to integrate into its strategic program. * * * * The first issue is the Internet. The battle for network neutrality is to Read More ›

Thoughts on broadband strategy

The FCC received reply comments last week concerning the national broadband plan it is required — pursuant to the stimulus legislation — to deliver to Congress by Feb. 17, 2010. In the attached reply comments of my own, I conclude: The broadband market is delivering better services at lower prices. There is no evidence of a market failure which would justify additional regulation. I pointed out that just as the Sherman Act does not “give judges carte blanche to insist that a monopolist alter its way of doing business whenever some other approach might yield greater competition,” according to the Supreme Court, the Commission would be wise not to insist that broadband providers alter their way of doing business just Read More ›

Network control unfairly criticized

A paper by M. Chris Riley and Ben Scott for Free Press (“Deep Packet Inspection: The End of the Internet As We Know It?“) concludes that improper use of DPI technology — which enables Internet service providers to inspect the content of messages in real time and which is currently used to priortize time-sensitive traffic when networks become congested — will have dire consequences for innovation and consumers. Yes, DPI can help alleviate problems of congestion in a network, thus improving the user experience. But the same DPI technology — the same electronics equipment, in fact — also allows providers to monitor and monetize every use of the Internet … Riley and Scott believe this is bad for consumers for Read More ›

Bracing for new regulation

Observers predict stepped-up regulatory battles in telecom, according to the Wall Street Journal, New congressional leaders as well as policy makers in the Obama administration are expected to press for fresh limits on media consolidation and require phone and cable firms to open their networks to Internet competitors, lobbyists and industry officials say. The article overlooks the fact that broadcast ownership limits and forced access policies are restraints on the free speech rights of broadcasters and network providers, and that the constitutionality of new regulation could ultimately be decided by the courts.

Regulation and investment?

Misguided regulatory policy is “among the most important inhibitors of capital investment in telecommunications,” conclude Debra J. Aron and Robert W. Crandall in a recent paper. The authors observe that Business firms do not make investments for altruistic reasons but rather make investments in order to earn a return on the invested capital. For any company to make any investment, it must determine, and convince the capital market, that the investment is reasonably likely to produce a positive return in net present value (NPV) terms sufficient to compensate for the risk incurred. When companies seek funding to execute a project, they compete for those funds with all other potential projects in the economy, not just with other investment opportunities available Read More ›

Events overtaking net neutrality

The conventional Beltway wisdom would be that net neutrality legislation should have a real chance now with the election of President-Elect Obama and strengthened Democratic majorities in the Senate and House. But there are two recent developments which make the case for net neutrality regulation less compelling. Free Airwaves The Federal Communications Commission approved the use of unlicensed wireless devices to operate in broadcast television spectrum on a secondary basis at locations where that spectrum is open, i.e., the television “white spaces.” In other words, a vast amount of spectrum will soon be available to provide broadband data and other services, and the spectrum will be free. George Mason University Professor Thomas W. Hazlett notes that [S]ome 250 million mobile Read More ›

Reform intercarrier compensation

The Federal Communications Commission began a broad inquiry of intercarrier compensation in 2001 and now it may finally be getting around to acting on it on Nov. 4 while everyone’s thoughts are on something else. This is about 12 years overdue. Congress in 1996 foresaw that implicit phone subsidies were unsustainable and ordered the FCC to replace them with a competitively-neutral subsidy mechanism. Due to political pressure, regulators have failed to complete the job. Intercarrier compensation refers to “access charges” for long-distance calls and “reciprocal compensation” for local calls. A long-distance carrier may be forced to pay a local carrier more than 30 cents per minute to deliver a long-distance call, but local carriers receive as little as .0007 cents Read More ›