Tag: fcc

US FCC limits broadband competition

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is reversing a requirement imposed that Charter Communications extend broadband service to a million households already served by a competitor.

The requirement was made under the Obama administration to make sure that the telcos competed with each other rather than setting up local monopolies.

It was part of a condition of approval for its acquisition of two cable companies, Charter had agreed in May 2016 to extend high-speed internet access to 2 million customers within five years, with 1 million served by a broadband competitor.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai in a statement said the move was like telling two people you will buy them lunch, ordering two entrees, and then sending both to just one of your companions.

“It runs directly against the goal of promoting greater internet access for all Americans.”

The American Cable Association petitioned the FCC to reverse the requirement in 2016.

The group warned it would have “devastating effects on the smaller broadband providers Charter will overbuild” because they would face competition from an “uneconomic, government mandated entry” that could put some companies out of business.

But equally it could create a situation where cable companies divide up regions to get local monopolies.

US FCC wants to reform big data to help poor telcos

The Republican head of the Federal Communications Commission wants to ease regulatory requirements in the $45 billion business data services market.

This is a win for AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon but a problem for outfits like Sprint who think prices for business data are too high and backed a plan under President Barack Obama that would have cut prices.

Small businesses, schools, libraries and others rely on business data services, or special-access lines, to transmit large amounts of data quickly, for instance connecting banks to ATM machines or gasoline pump credit card readers. Wireless carriers rely on them for the backhaul of mobile traffic.

Writing in his bog FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the commission will vote April 20 to reform the rule that telecommunications experts say would deregulate the market in most of the country but would retain regulations in some places.

“Where this competition exists, we will relax unnecessary regulation, thereby creating greater incentives for the private sector to invest in next-generation networks. But where competition is still lacking, we’ll preserve regulations necessary to prevent anti-competitive price increases,” Pai said.

However consumer groups such as the Public Knowledge and Consumer Federation of America called Pai’s proposal a “bonanza” for big telecommunications companies that “will drain consumer pocketbooks of tens of billions of dollars per year”.

Under President Barack Obama, the then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a reform plan for business data services that aimed to reduce prices paid.

Wheeler wanted to keep and lowering lower price caps using legacy data systems with a one-time 11 percent reduction in prices phased in over three years.

Sprint liked the idea said that thousands of large and small businesses across the country are paying far too much for broadband because of inadequate competition.

Sprint argued:  “A small handful of companies are overcharging the very investors and employers that are critical to our economic growth and are using anticompetitive tactics to ensure that these businesses never have access to competitive alternatives.”

However AT&T argued Wheeler’s plan was “little more than a wealth transfer to companies that have chosen not to invest in last mile fibre infrastructure”.

 

Trump’s FCC boss calls Net Neutrality a mistake

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said today that net neutrality was “a mistake” and the Commission was taking steps to turn it into a telco’s wet dream.

Pai said that net neutrality injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market and uncertainty was the enemy of growth.

To be fair Pai has always been opposed to net neutrality and voted against the proposal when it came up in 2015. He had been widely expected to dismantle net neutrality to allow telos to charge people what they like. Basically, Pai’s thinks that internet providers were doing just fine under the old rules and that the new ones have hurt investment.

Both of those points have been discounted. There’s little competition in the wired broadband market, and Consumerist investigated the investment claims in early 2016 and found that internet providers were estimated to spend more in the coming year.

“Today, the torch at the FCC has been passed to a new generation, dedicated to renewal as well as change. We are confident in the decades-long, cross-party consensus on light-touch internet regulation … and we are on track to returning to that successful approach,” Pai said.

He cites the commission’s approval of zero-rating schemes — this, he says, is exactly why all four carriers are now offering unlimited data plans.

This is also rubbish as zero rating isn’t involved in these plans at all. Telcos offer highly competitive unlimited data plans because the last FCC chairman kept them in a competitive environment, leaving four nationwide wireless providers and a clear set of rules for them to follow.

Pai seems to think that the FCC should do nothing unless there’s a huge market failure and that competition can preserve an open internet even without rules.

The fact that the US telcos are hardly in competition and well just use their quasi-monopoly powers to double charge heavy web users is no part of Pai’s reality.

US Telcos given blank cheque on net neutrality

70977464_7d8ecfa4da_zThe Federal Communications Commission’s new Republican leadership is turning the outfit into the sort of watchdog who snoozes while the comms companies burgle the house.

On Friday evening, the man in charge rescinded a ruling that AT&T and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules with paid data cap exemptions and promised to look away on the racket.

The Trump appointed Chairman Ajit Pai has also rescinded several other reports and actions he disagreed with.

The comms companies had a wizard wheeze to kill off competition for their video services by allowing them to be used without counting against data cap restrictions.  After all there is nothing wrong with throttling your opposition is there?  The FCC disagreed but Pai saw nothing wrong with it. Now he is in charge he is making sure that there is nothing to stop the comms companies throttling who they like – so long as it is not him, we guess.

Pai says that free data offerings are “popular among consumers precisely because they allow more access to online music, videos, and other content free of charge.” He has also vowed to overturn the FCC’s net neutrality rules and hasn’t committed to enforcing them while they remain in place.

But the abandoning of the investigation is the first move that Pai has taken against the FCC’s anti-net neutrality laws.

Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly added that this was just the first step they would be taking to protect the poor comms companies from regulations so they could continue to provide the sorts of products their customers wanted without the fear of red tape.  After all companies with total regional monopolies always provide what their customers want and never think of profits first.

 

Trump’s new FTC chairman fudges on Net Neutrality

trumpuckerPresident Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump’s new Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai promised that the FCC will eliminate regulations under his leadership.

This was no real surprise, Pai was widely expected to hand over control of the US telecommunications networks back to the comms companies so they could charge what they like with a minimum amount of red tape.

He was also expected to spike net neutrality laws and allow the comms companies to charge high users such as Google extra money for having high traffic sites.

But Pai fudged on a lot of that. He prattled on about consumer protection and enforcement being important priorities for the commission—but he wouldn’t comment about whether he’ll enforce the existing net neutrality rules.

Pai has repeatedly made it clear that he opposes the current rules and wants to overturn them, he has not said whether the commission will continue to enforce all the rules while they are still in place.

Pai pointed out that he wouldn’t punish small ISPs for violations of the net neutrality order’s “enhanced transparency” rules. The FCC is finalising an order that will exempt ISPs with 250,000 or fewer subscribers from those truth-in-billing rules and will not enforce them against the small ISPs while they’re still in place.

He is refusing to say if he will enforce the core net neutrality rules that prohibit Internet providers from blocking or throttling traffic or giving priority to Web services in exchange for payment.

Pai said: “I think the issue is pretty simple. I favour a free and open Internet and I oppose Title II. That’s pretty much all I can say about that topic.”
Title II was the reclassification of Internet providers as common carriers and the related imposition of net neutrality rules. In May 2014, Pai voted against a preliminary version of the rules that did not include a Title II reclassification and were weaker than the ones ultimately approved the following year.

One think that he will be doing is finding ways to stop robocalling.

The first FCC meeting eliminated two public inspection file rules. One of the rules required TV and radio stations to maintain copies of correspondence from viewers and listeners and make them available to the public.

The other eliminated rule required cable companies to “maintain and allow public inspection of the location of a cable system’s principal headend.”.

In his press conference, Pai said this vote is just the first step toward his goal of “modernising” regulations and “removing unnecessary or counterproductive regulations.”

President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to get rid of two regulations for every new regulation added, because that is really smart.

Pai said this order apparently doesn’t apply to independent agencies like the FCC, but said he still wants to remove “legacy regulations” if they’re not necessary to promote competition and the public interest.

What will be more interesting is seeing if he is going to stand up to the hugely powerful telcos or just attempt to make life easier for them.

Telcos likely to have supreme power over Google

animal-memes-how-i-feel-when-i-have-waterproof-phoneAfter all its years being in bed with the Obama administration, the search engine Google might suddenly find itself in a bit of hot water.

Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump look like he is going to reverse Obama administration policies that often favoured the internet giant in the company’s battles with telecoms and cable heavyweights.

Trump looks like he will grab the pussy of the telecom firms and has already asked the US Federal Communications Commission to halt action on regulatory reform measures opposed by companies such as AT&T and CenturyLink.

The commission is now expected to reject FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s high-profile proposal to open the $20 billion market for rented pay-TV set-top boxes.

This would have dealt a big blow to cable companies and created an opening for firms such as Google.

Cable companies have expressed concerns that rivals like Google or Apple could create devices or apps and insert their own content or advertising in cable content.

This could also be bad news for net neutrality. Most Republicans strongly oppose net neutrality, which requires internet service providers to treat all data equally and bars them from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content.

Republicans in Congress or at a Republican-controlled FCC under a Trump administration could also pare back new privacy rules adopted in October that subject internet service providers to stricter rules than those faced by Google and other websites.

Deutsche Telekom puts T-Mobile sale on hold

tmobile1Deutsche Telekom has put the sale of T-Mobile US on hold while it worries about an upcoming US auction of radio airwaves.

The move gives potential suitors time to wait for a more favorable political environment toward telecoms mergers.

The US Federal Communications Commission is to start an auction for low-frequency airwaves at the end of this month and this could last for months. While this is happening, it is unlikely that there will be many mergers.

Auction participants are not allowed to engage in any partnership or merger talks during the weeks before and after the bidding process. T-Mobile US, which is 65.4 percent owned by DT has said it could spend up to $10 billion in the auction.

An auction of AWS-3 airwaves, which ended early last year, raised a record $44.9 billion.

DT has been trying to sell the unit for years, hoping to cash in on a recovery in the business.

Last month T-Mobile US’s net profit nearly tripled in the fourth quarter after it added more than 2 million customers. Last year it overtook Sprint to become the third largest provider.

But attempts to sell T-Mobile to Sprint in 2014 were blocked by US regulators and last year talks between T-Mobile US and Dish Network stalled.

 

Rubio and Cruz pledge to end net neutrality

TCMRRepublican presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have decided to celebrate the one year anniversary of the FCC’s net neutrality rules by trying to kill them.

Cruz and Rubio have joined six other Senators in pushing the new Restoring Internet Freedom Act  which would dismantle the rules, change the FCC’s Title II reclassification of ISPs as common carriers, and prevent the FCC from trying to pass net neutrality rules in the future.

Of course this is of no benefit to the American consumer, just the big corporate telcos, so in cause you think that Rubio and Cruz might be anti-establishment types, this sort of action means that they are probably the same corporate puppets as everyone else.

In a statement posted to the Rubio website, the Presidential hopeful states the new law is necessary because the FCC’s “burdensome” net neutrality rules are destroying innovation, diversity, and network investment:quote:

“The Internet has always been one of the best models of the free market. There are low barriers to entry, back and forth communication between consumers and providers, and a rapid evolution of ideas. “Through burdensome regulations and tight control like the net neutrality rule, the government only hinders accessibility and the diversity of content,” added Rubio. “Consumers should be driving the market, and we can help by encouraging innovation, incentivizing investment, and promoting the competitive environment this industry needs.”

Of course that implies that the US telecom market is free, which it is not.  In best cases it is a duopoly and the rules are hardly enforced so are not exactly “burdensome”. Comcast is using usage caps and zero rating to violate neutrality and give their own services an advantage against Netflix.

So basically it looks like the only consumer protection laws that the US has won in the last decade against corporations will be rolled back if either of these two gets elected.

 

Watchdog actually growls at US comms companies

angry-puppyUS comms companies are in a tizzy after it is looking like the watchdog put in charge of monitoring them is actually doing its job.

For a while now the comms companies had a wizard wheeze of charging customers twice for the same service by insisting that if they stream content they will have to pay more. In the good old days they would present the plan to the FCC which would promptly roll over and do what it was told. This time the comm companies are collectively fleeing from the building with a figurative chunk of their pants missing.

On May 1st, a group of organisations including AT&T, CenturyLink, USTelecom, and wireless trade association CTIA petitioned for the FCC to delay the implementation of its Open Internet order, which would reclassifying broadband as a service. They claim that it is against the public interest because customers are keen to play more for no marked improvement of service and love to be throttled for not paying up.

Normally that would have done the trick and the FCC would have fallen into line.

But the FCC denied the petition, issuing an order that states its classification of broadband internet as a telecommunications service “falls well within the Commission’s statutory authority, is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and fully complies with the Administrative Procedure Act.”

The petition had argued specifically against the reclassification, stating that it would lead to “unrecoverable losses” for broadband providers, and “significant costs” that would hurt people.

To be fair, the organisations involved did not complain about the three rules that stop providers from blocking legal content, throttling subscribers, and from offering paid prioritisation. What they wanted was to stop the idea of the internet being seen as a service.

FCC head Tom Wheeler is sure the Open Internet order will get through, bringing in a new and fairer set of rules for the internet, but we expect a few more problems to come.

US telecoms industry betrayed by “puppet”

uktv-captain-scarlet-and-the-mysterons-1When FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler took over there were some of us who felt that it was not appropriate for a former telco spinner to be in charge of watching over his former bosses.

There were some who implied that Wheeler was a puppet who would do whatever the telcos told him. Industry officials had initially hailed Wheeler’s nomination in 2013 as an “exceptional choice.” Comcast itself commended Wheeler’s “vast knowledge” and “proven leadership”.

Now everyone is having to eat their words as Comcast’s spectacular failure to close its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable has proved us all wrong.

Wheeler is being credited with the collapse of the Comcast merger and 17 months into his tenure, Wheeler’s FCC has emerged as one of the most aggressive regulators in US history.

The merger was expected to be rubber stamped however in September, Wheeler gave a speech in which he said the country lacked sufficient competition in the broadband industry. He said that most people had only two providers to choose from when purchasing the fastest types of Internet service.

Then, in January, the FCC he raised the threshold for what is considered “high-speed” Internet which meant that Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable would have given it control of more than half the US broadband market.

In February Wheeler slapped new restrictions on Internet providers as part of its net neutrality rules, which banned broadband companies from unfairly slowing down or blocking consumers’ access to Web sites. And it made it illegal to speed up Web sites in exchange for payments from content providers.

Observers say that Wheeler, 69, does not need to seek another job when he departs the FCC so he can do what he thinks is right. The Washington Post quoted him as saying: “When I was at CTIA and NCTA, I was an advocate for those interests and I hope I did a very good job as an advocate for them,” Wheeler said. “Today, I have a different client. My client is the American people, and I want to be the best damn advocate they can get.”