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Archive for the ‘Network Neutrality’ Category

Stop Congress from Undermining the Open, Nondiscriminatory Internet!

In Competition, Do-Not-Deliver, FCC, FTC & DOJ, Network Neutrality, Rules&Regs, Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Take Action to Oppose H.J. Res. 37!

Some Members of the House and Senate want to override the modest safeguards finally put in place by the Federal Communications Commission. If successful, their action would say to the handful of major Broadband Internet Service Providers that actually handle the flow of traffic: “The Web is YOURS — Carve it up as you please!” Measures that would amount to a “Congressional Veto” of the FCC, small business and the general public have been introduced on both sides of Capitol Hill. The knee-jerk legislation, H.J. Res. 37 and companion S.J. Res. 6, aim to shred several years worth of diligent policy process at the expert agency and replace it with…nothing. A gaping black hole of uncertainty for every other line of business that is not a monopoly or duopoly ISP.

Members pushing for “Congressional Veto” willfully ignore the exhaustive record in the inclusive, open proceedings at the FCC. But what is worse, from an economic and job creation standpoint anyway, is the blind eye to the current market realities. We noted the lack of broadband competition in nearly all markets in our last post on topic. Here’s another way to look at the sheer market force of the handful of incumbent providers — those who would now be told that our collective internet is really their proprietary internet. While all the rest of us who are dependent on the network are scolded to just click our heels and say competition three times fast, and all evils will just cure themselves.

Even a quick peek through the lens of Moore’s law shows us how the idea of competition gives way to alternate reality in anticompetitive markets. Moore’s law anticipated the technological breakthroughs behind the wonders of computer chip-making. The innovations predicted by Moore, and the numerous corollaries beyond transistors including pixels per dollar, have brought us faster and cheaper computers, cameras, smart phones, tablets and the like. All smaller and more powerful — and cheaper — by the day. Consider the descending arc of the consumer’s cost of a Gigabyte of storage: 1981 = $300,000; ’87 = $50K; ’90 = $10K; ’94 = $1,000; ’97 = $100; ’00 = $10; ’04 = $1…and by 2010 we’re down to tens cents. All thanks to the driving forces of innovation and robust competition.

Now look at your latest Broadband Bill. Compare it to last year and the year before that. The price tag might suggest that the costs of digital data transmission are somehow immune to the otherwise ubiquitous phenomenon predicted by Moore and his innovative peers. But they absolutely are not. Accurate parallels apply to network capacity including Butter’s Law of Photonics — and today the actual bandwidth cost has fallen to an industry average of between 2 and 5 pennies per gigabite. Innovation combined with widespread adoption, has driven down the average cost of digital data transmission to the major incumbent ISPs to a mere $1 per month per customer. That fact that we’re still charged an average between $20 and 50.00 per month for broadband service is proof positive of an anticompetitive market.

But Congress wants to do more than simply ignore the reality that our nation’s wireline broadband markets are so concentrated that they can defy Moore’s law and keep all the savings away from consumers. In pushing this “Congressional Veto” of the FCC — and the rest of America exposed to monopoly or duopoly broadband provider conditions — they are actually signaling to the major ISPs with outsized market power and national footprints to go ahead with plans to set up new traffic-tampering toll booths if the markets will allow. And obviously, a broken market that allows charging up to $50 for something that costs as low as $1 to provide will also “allow” a new profit center built on gatekeeping.

Take Action to Oppose H.J. Res. 37!

The Free Community Paper Industry strongly oppose this “Congressional Veto” of the Federal Communications Commission’s modest safeguards to preserve an Open, Nondiscriminatory Internet. Contrary to some misleading talking points, the FCC’s well-reasoned framework simply establishes Transparency and prohibits Blocking and Unreasonable Discrimination against lawful network traffic. The FCC would have Broadband Internet Access Service Providers clearly disclose to consumers what exactly they are paying for and getting, while guarding against involuntary censorship of their customers’ digital communications. Instead, H.J. Res. 37 would obliterate these most basic rules of the road, scrapping the very conditions which have finally enshrined the longstanding policy and practice that allowed the internet to flourish. This “Congressional Veto” would give the green light to ISPs to launch into the gatekeeping business, and create new profit centers built on censorship and traffic toll booths. In essence, this bill says that after collecting payment for hosting as well as for wholesale and retail connectivity, the limited group of monopoly and duopoly providers can now create a new piggy bank to fill by dictating consumer experience and extorting new access taxes from all content creators including our hometown publishers, or otherwise block content in favor of their own.

The public is clearly on the side of the FCC, and overwhelmingly opposed to this Congressional effort to undermine sound communications policy. For those just entering this important policy debate, please read the latest opinion survey released by CFA and CU, the publishers of unbiased Consumer Reports. Perhaps even more instructive than the data detailing broad public support for Open Internet are the survey questions themselves. Answer them for yourself, as these are the actual network management practices at issue. Doing so, you might note the radical disconnect between real policy substance and distractive talking points on topic. With this understanding of the underlying principles of Open, Nondiscriminatory Internet, you will likely appreciate why this debate has historically been nonpartisan. A broad consensus of consumer and social policy interest groups across the political divide agree on the need to prohibit traffic tampering and corporate censorship. One particularly passionate essay on point was Christian Coalition of America’s “Net Neutrality is Not Some Marxist Plot,” debunking propaganda parroted by pundits on this action issue for them rooted in protecting free speech. Similarly, there is simply no credible reading of the actual FCC safeguards that could confuse network transparency and nondiscriminatory treatment of traffic with a “fairness doctrine of the internet” by any reasonable stretch of the imagination.

Our Industry joins with the broad consensus of job creators that support the FCC policy to preserve our vibrant, interconnected networks. The solid economic case against this “Congressional Veto” has been made universally by innovators, investors and a broad range of job creators operating on the so-called edge of the network. Our collective economic output is orders of magnitude above the solo enterprise of data transmission, and our capacity for innovation is as vast as our lines of business are diverse. Our continued growth and the emergence of new business models are critically dependent on the fair competition fueled by open, nondiscriminatory networks. The “Repeal” offered in H.J. Res. 37 implicitly contemplates a new anticompetitive vision of digital-era commerce, where the game is suddenly changed at halftime. It decides who gets to be the home team, and allows them to make their own new rules while telling the referees to leave the stadium. It’s worth noting that even competitive rivals to the national ISP giants support the FCC’s safeguards for fair competition.

This “Congressional Veto” comes as longstanding policy and practice have been recently undermined by the Courts and demonstrably threatened by implementation of powerful new traffic tampering technologies including Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). It proposes to remove enforceable Open Internet protections in the face of explicit internet carve-up schemes such as the public proposal floated jointly by Google and Verizon, and those buried in the comments of monopoly and duopoly broadband providers filed with the FCC in their exhaustive review. H.J. Res. 37 ignores the record established by the expert agency, and with negligible diligence of its own, torpedos a years-long open and transparent process of consultation, meetings, hearings and countless reams of substantive comments from all stakeholders including our Industry. If Congress moves forward with this ill-conceived and reactionary measure, the participatory internet as we’ve collectively grown it could devolve from a robust information superhighway into a potholed patchwork of fast and slow lanes and new toll booths. Free speech, fair competition, commerce, investment and job creation are all placed in jeopardy by this and similar Congressional proposals to demolish the FCC’s light-touch approach to preserving an Open Internet.


We Can’t Afford To Be Neutral on Net Neutrality

In Competition, Do-Not-Deliver, Do-Not-Mail, FCC, FTC & DOJ, Network Neutrality, Uncategorized on August 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

From my column in the upcoming edition of INK, the national trade journal of the Association of Free Community Papers:

The Google-Verizon “internet pact” — or “joint policy announcement” on “guiding principles” or self-serving internet carve-up or whatever it’s being called by the time this article goes to press — is a fundamental game changer. The good news is that the canaries have finally escaped from the mines and they’re flapping in the light of day. The exposure and reclarifications of private negotiations and agreements between two giants on the provider and search-video-advertising sides of the internet, put a fresh public face on all the back-room deal-making and denials of the substance of same. Their joint, “this is not a business arrangement” plan for a new parallel, pay-to-play fast-lane internet, with corresponding application blocking, content discrimination and toll booths for mobile broadband, has finally focused policy and jurisdiction where it needs to be.

The Google-Verizon scheme may change endgame in a way that Comcast’s actions — blocking lawful data, denial of blocking, subsequent admission of and reprimand for same, and then major court victory to do it again anytime without consequence — should have already transformed the policy debate on the uncertain future of the internet.

I’ve been preaching about preserving an Open Internet for several years now. During that time, the structural need for clear and fair rules on the information superhighway had smoldered on the back burners of regulators and Congress. Most discussion and analysis had been limited to passionate geeks, much of it buried in tech mags and blogs. All the while, our industry was legitimately more concerned with the pressing need to embrace immediate digital realities and seize opportunities to monetize our online offerings. In a presentation a couple years back on defending threats to distribution — including rack theft and fees, local litter laws and do-not-mail — I detailed the need to begin fighting against new toll booths that providers were quietly preparing to place on data over broadband. It has long been clear that if the major cable-telcos had their way, they would operate much like Dominion and DistribuTech do with print, in their practice of monopolizing high traffic locations and then extorting those using the demand distribution model.

Similar analogies could be made to local delivery laws favoring certain publications over others, or the USPS jacking rates disproportionately on Saturation or relegating our class to a new 14-day delivery window. Major difference here is options: With our print products, each scenario could be fought separately through numerous channels. Outcomes could be challenged and even failing that, each model of distribution still serves as a next-best fallback option. But in the digital world, a handful of companies control the pipes and 97% of our readers get their broadband at home — if they get it — from either a monopoly or duopoly provider. Putting that back in Dominion and DistribuTech context, applied to internet there’s no 2nd Option so we’d basically be held hostage.

Until the landmark Comcast decision in April, most ISPs kept any blocking and traffic tampering limited and discreet enough to keep public attention away. Collectively, the handful of major cable-telcos abided by the concept of Open, Nondiscriminatory Networks and the notion that the Federal Communications Commission had at least marginal authority to serve as cop on that beat. That tenuous power to enforce was actually a matter of faith written in Crayon when the FCC enacted rules between 2002 and 2005 that classified broadband as a magically bundled, fluffy information service. Abandoning sight of the critical communications component — the end to end transmission of digital data — shifted the FCC’s regulatory authorities onto quicksand. And it simultaneously put thousands of independent ISPs on the short end of the competitive stick and ultimately out of business.

The anything-but-Comcastic court ruling was bound to happen at some point. The Commission had finally begun a formal, public process to preserve an Open, Nondiscriminatory Internet when the legitimate authority they gave away mid-decade led to crushing defeat in the D.C. Circuit. To get out of the quicksand and onto solid ground, the FCC recently began seeking public input on ways to reclassify the transmission of data component of broadband as a communications service, among ways that it could legitimately regain authority to preserve the principles of Network Neutrality. It is important to note that the Communications Act gives the Commission this Rulemaking authority and the Courts have upheld the preeminence of expert agencies generally. And on the critical issue of end to end transmission of digital data, Supreme Court Justice Scalia has already opined that the Commission could separate the delivery from the pizza.

We have been actively participating in the public sausage-making at the FCC, filing comments and educating senior advisors on the competitive threats we’ll face on a web of arbitrary, capricious and pay-to-play fast and slow lanes. As the major ISPs have gone to Congress seeking to block and otherwise stall the transparent process at the FCC, we’ve made our case on the Hill, stopping procedural games like attempts at agency defunding. Through our collaboration in broader coalitions, we were represented on the seat speaking for small businesses and consumers at private stakeholder meetings. The Google-Verizon private deal-making put the final straw on top of mounting frustration over broader, but still limited private deal-making, leading the FCC to scrap private talks and get back in earnest to the open, public process well underway.

Meanwhile, the substance of the Google-Verizon scheme has helped immensely in cutting through the smoke screens crafted by the cable-telco lobby on the Hill, as well as poke major holes in their aggressive public relations campaign. The next couple of months will be critical in the fight for fair competition through an enforceable framework that preserves the openness and freedom of the internet. While most activity will take place in D.C., publishers can still help in a few productive ways. Editorials explaining what’s at stake and debunking common myths would be great, and if a public hearing or Commissioner-attended forum comes to a town near you, promoting and attending would be most helpful. Efforts will continue to be made by major ISPs to try to get Congress to stall the FCC, and here publishers could let their members know that the Commission should instead be encouraged to move their open, public proceeding towards a timely, favorable conclusion.

United Policy Point #2: Support Net Neutrality!

In FCC, FTC & DOJ, Network Neutrality, Rules&Regs on October 12, 2009 at 11:50 pm

We need laws and policies that protect open and neutral digital networks, and otherwise prevent arbitrary discrimination against traffic and content. In the past, arguments that this was a solution in search of a problem might have made sense.

But now all of the major players — Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Cox — have been caught tampering with internet traffic — each had previously denied till exposed. Combine that with public statements that they’d like to charge for priority delivery and site-specific load speeds, this is a really big deal. Consider the new Yahoo! & AT&T ad sales partnership, where the national carrier could guarantee the ads they sell load in a heartbeat, and all those they compete with get stuck in molasses.

Our emerging digital enterprises are at risk, but recently introduced H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act would keep us from being extorted or discriminated against. And just last week the FCC announced a formal Rulemaking to protect open and neutral digital networks. The major monopoly providers are opposed, and since Verizon’s point man chairs this committee at the US Chamber, they oppose on behalf of all business big and small, and several astroturf are also joining the fray.

Our Industry Needs United Voice on Key Policies…

In Cap & Trade, Do-Not-Deliver, Do-Not-Mail, Environmental Impact, FCC, FTC & DOJ, Healthcare Reform, Legal Advertising, Network Neutrality, Rules&Regs on October 12, 2009 at 11:35 pm

…being written in real-time!

As many of you already know, I spent years working inside our industry and now advocate for the specific interests of our industry. Officially, I only consult for MACPA, but in practice I always help any publisher, anywhere, anytime. Those efforts benefit dual members and often publishers well outside the Mid-Atlantic. Today, we and our advertisers — small business, generally — are under assault by both government and much larger competitors. Since the election, a slew of new front groups launched claiming to speak for broad constituencies — from the “public” generally to “small business” specifically. Meanwhile, recent surveys show that 76% of small businesses feel nobody’s speaking for them — but the biggest businesses are spending more than ever to claim to speak for all business.

It would be extremely helpful for me to be able to point to a statement of common purpose when I’m tackling regional and national issues. Current conditions make it more important than ever that the entire industry unite around a few national policy priorities. I’m asking that you please consider adopting some formal positions — a resolution for your board to vote on that your association joins in formally endorsing any, hopefully all of the following:

• legislation affording the legal ability of audited free community papers to publish and bill for legal advertising and public notice;

• laws and policies that protect open and neutral digital networks, and otherwise prevent arbitrary discrimination against traffic and content;

• laws and rules that foster fair competition between media outlets in local media markets;

• voluntary efforts towards greater community recycling, full-circle recycling of newsprint, and incentives towards availability and use of higher recovered fiber newsprint;

• passage of a federal shield law for reporters;

• steadfast opposition to all threats to distribution, including all levels of laws, ordinances and predatory practices relating to: rack, carrier and mail.

• Bonus: Any statements on some key small biz provisions on health care reform would be great, too. All other suggestions welcome!

Government happens to you…

In Cap & Trade, Do-Not-Deliver, Environmental Impact, Fair Housing Rules, Healthcare Reform, Legal Advertising, Network Neutrality, Uncategorized on July 24, 2009 at 12:09 pm

…If you let it! Welcome to the Free Paper Policy Blog & Data Warehouse! The goal here is to create constructive dialogue and provide proven resources to deal with the vast array of threats and opportunities facing the free community paper industry. The wonky topics found here include HUD & Fair Housing Advertising, Do-Not-Deliver/Mail Case Studies, Dominion & DistribuTech Rack Monopolies, FCC, PLCB, Legal Advertising Reform, Workers Comp, Healthcare Reform, Unionization, Environmental Impact, Open Networks/Net Neutrality, Deep Packet Inspection…and comprehensive notes on all the neato stuff we’ve battled, won & learned from!