FCC Dismantles Net Neutrality
Despite widespread opposition, the FCC voted 3-2 last Thursday to end two decades of bipartisan net neutrality principles. The Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order adopted by the Commission specifically:
- Reclassifies broadband Internet access service as an "information service" under Title I of the Communications Act.
- Reinstates the classification of mobile broadband Internet access service as a private mobile service.
- Finds that the regulatory uncertainty created by utility-style Title II regulation has reduced Internet service provider (ISP) investment in networks, as well as hampered innovation, particularly among small ISPs serving rural consumers.
- Finds that public policy, in addition to legal analysis, supports the information service classification, because it is more likely to encourage broadband investment and innovation, thereby furthering the goal of closing the digital divide and benefitting the entire Internet ecosystem.
- Relies on the Federal Trade Commission authority to address unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices by ISPs.
Report and Order
- Requires that ISPs disclose information about their practices to consumers, entrepreneurs, and the Commission, including any blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, or affiliated prioritization.
- Finds that transparency, combined with market forces as well as antitrust and consumer protection laws, achieve benefits comparable to those of the 2015 "bright line" rules at lower cost.
- Eliminates the General Conduct Standard the FCC promulgated in 2015.
- Finds that the public interest is not served by adding to the record in this proceeding, including confidential materials submitted in other proceedings.
In response to the FCC's actions, INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering, said that "the FCC vote to end net neutrality is a blow to binge watchers and the streaming services they love. Ending net neutrality enables cable gatekeepers to close the door on access and innovation while opening the floodgates on new fees for small businesses who depend on cloud services."
He added that
"three out of four Republicans support net neutrality and Congressional leaders have fought hard to make us the party of competition. But Chairman Pai is making us the party of big cable. That sends the wrong message to main street voters who want lower prices and more choice.
The fight to save the internet has just begun. We will fight in the courts, Congress and in every corner of our country until a free and open internet is returned to the American people."
Prior to the meeting, INCOMPAS called on the FCC to release last minute changes made to this order after the FCC's CTO Eric Burger warned that the net neutrality plan is "not in public interest," and raised concerns about blocking and throttling
A Politico story last Wednesday reported that Burger, who was appointed by Chairman Ajit Pai, noted significant problems with the Order in an internal email to all five Commissioners, including that ISPs will be able to block or throttle specific websites, saying that, "unfortunately, I realize we do not address that at all."
The CTO's email also warned that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not have the authority to stop an ISP from blocking legal content, unless it deemed such an action is explicitly anti-competitive. He said that such a practice "is not in the public interest."
INCOMPAS raised the same concerns in a letter to the FCC and asked the Commission to delay the vote and release the redline changes to the Order for the public to see.
"We are curious to see how the Chairman's office was able to edit the Order to address the CTO's very important concerns in such a short time period. We have been asking the FCC to protect websites from ISP blocking and throttling for months, but to no avail," said Angie Kronenberg, INCOMPAS chief advocate and general counsel. "This is a potential bombshell for the court review. We call on the FCC to be fully transparent. They should share the redline edits to the Order, and release the email exchanges between the agency's technical staff and political staff resolving the issue, in order to help shed some light on the mystery surrounding the CTO's email."
Thought-provoking keynotes and interactive panel discussions await attendees of The 2018 INCOMPAS Policy Summit.
Taking place on Wednesday, February 7, at the New
seum in Washington, D.C., The INCOMPAS Policy Summit will provide a unique opportunity to hear from communications
and policy leaders on the current state of affairs and the future landscape of the communications industry.
Among the confirmed speakers are:
- FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
- Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
- Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH)
- Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
In addition, there will be a series of panel discussions featuring industry executives and policy makers, who will address topics such as:
- Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices
- Fiber and wireless infrastructure deployment
- Content streaming and over-the-top (OTT)
- Business strategies leveraging the technology of tomorrow
The Policy Summit will conclude with a happy hour, offering valuable networking opportunities.
For more information, or to learn how you can sponsor this premier policy event, email Jenny Gilbert.
FCC Seeks Comments about Collocations on Twilight Towers
At its December Open Meeting last week, the FCC voted to seek public comment on a plan to exclude from routine historic preservation review the collocation of wireless communications equipment on certain towers known as Twilight Towers. The proposed plan would make existing infrastructure available for additional wireless deployments.
Twilight Towers, which were constructed between March 16, 2001, and March 7, 2005, either were built without undergoing the historic preservation review required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, or lack documentation that such review was conducted. As a result, these towers are not eligible for collocations in the same way as towers that have documented Section 106 review and clearance or towers that were exempted under the pre-2001 standard.
The Public Notice requests input on whether to formally request that the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation adopt a document called a Program Comment that would allow collocations on Twilight Towers without historic preservation review so long as certain conditions are met. The FCC's proposal to facilitate collocations on Twilight Towers recognizes that collocations on existing towers have less potential to affect the environment and historic and cultural sites than constructing new towers. In addition, making these towers readily available for collocation will facilitate next-generation wireless services.
Microsoft Seeks Applicants
for Airband Grant Fund
Microsoft recently opened its third annual call for applications to the Microsoft Airband Grant Fund. In a blog, Shelley McKinley, Microsoft's general manager, Technology and Corporate Responsibility, wrote that the "grant fund seeks to spark innovation to overcome barriers to affordable internet access, through supporting high-potential, early-stage startups creating innovative new technologies, services and business models. Grantees receive cash investments, access to technology, business development support, mentoring and great networking opportunities. This year we're taking a keen interest in solutions enabling key verticals such as agriculture, education, healthcare and small business."
To date, Microsoft has awarded grants to 22 seed stage start-ups from 18 countries and five continents. Previous winners like New Sun Road, a company leveraging Azure cloud services to help provide affordable off-grid energy access in countries like Uganda, exemplify the role that Microsoft's cloud services play in empowering entrepreneurs to achieve more.
In addition to receiving funding and product grants, recipients will join a growing ecosystem of other grantees, business partners, and funders to further increase their impact via mentorship and Microsoft networking opportunities.
Submit applications by midnight PST, January 31.