Killing Program Access and Broadband Competition

Another Friday filing by the FCC: 146 pages on program access.It’s a classic on-the-one-hand-on-the-other item. This time around it’s even worse for the public, because the underlying competitive reality of the wires that run to American homes is being hidden, in two ways: First, the entire discussion is focused on the market for pay-TV, because that’s the subject of the rules being examined. That’s the wrong market definition from a consumer’s point of view. Consumers are buying both data and video in bundles, and in that bundled marketplace we don’t…

Killing the copper and income inequality

A hundred years ago, America decided that everyone was entitled to an affordable telephone line. Now some Americans (thanks to muni bright spots and other efforts) are making the upgrade to a fiber-to-the-home connection – the new global standard, the replacement for a standard general-purpose telephone line. But the policies that supported “universal” (all Americans) access to basic, affordable communications are being steadily dismantled and are not being upgraded. Why? Probably because all the people involved in making these decisions are affluent. A bunch of policies supported the idea of…

A User’s Guide to the Video Wars

Over the next year or so, there will be skirmishes in Congress about video regulations.  On the surface, they may sound technical – men wearing ties will bandy about terms like “compulsory license” and “local-into-local” – and it will be very easy to ignore the whole thing. But there are giants moving on the face of the earth when it comes to video, and many dollars are at stake. Just add zeroes until you get interested. Here’s a quick user’s guide to the video wars: 1. The vehicle. The legislative…

Google fiber – “experiencing awesome things together”

The advent of the commercial Internet in 1995 was a big deal, a major transformative shift. Now we’re going through another, quite different, but equally enormous shift: Fiber. Asian and Northern European countries are upgrading to fiber connectivity. One strand of fiber has thousands of times more bandwidth capacity than any of the last generation technologies like DSL, cable, satellite and wireless. It is likely to be useful for more than 50 years; it allows for equal uploads to downloads, and it’s highly scalable. We’ll see enormous future increases in…

The Cable Monopoly: Very Short Summary of 185 Pages

Imagine you’re a consumer sitting in your living room. You like sports. You like high-speed Internet access; in fact, you’ve gotten completely fed up with your DSL connection because it’s so awful and you’ve seen how much better a truly high-speed wire would be. So you’re interested in some kind of bundle that includes TV as well as broadband. If you’re that consumer, in 85% of the U.S. your only choice will be your local cable incumbent. If you’re really lucky and live in Verizon’s existing FiOS territory – the…

AT&T plan: Bigger and Better (for AT&T)

AT&T has now joined Verizon in announcing a shared data plan for wireless users. This is the moment that the two companies solidify their already crushing set of advantages over T-Mobile and Sprint. Result: AT&T and Verizon can continue to reap the rewards of their existing market power, without needing to expand their services. That’s bad news for American consumers. CNN has a good story about how the plan works, and how it compares to Verizon’s. (Remember that there are only two companies involved here, and as one tweaks its…

“Survey: Mobile App Privacy Fears Continue to Escalate”

That’s the title of a story yesterday. So you might ask: Well, isn’t the Federal Communications Commission the cop on the beat? The answer may surprise you: Because of the tsunami of deregulation carried out over the last few years, the FCC’s power to do anything about abuses of consumer privacy in the wireless world is murky at best – and arguably non-existent. The Commission deregulated wireless data services on the assumption that competition would protect consumers. Now we have the worst of both worlds: No real competition and no…

Keeping score: Comcast, Facebook, and the Olympics

Americans may remember watching the Olympics on television. : (“And .. the agony of defeat.”) : This was a collective experience. : There was the theme music, the graphics, the odd sports shown at odd hours. We paid for this experience indirectly, by watching the ads, but anyone with a working tuner could watch the Games over the air. You didn’t need a cable subscription. Look, I’m not suggesting that we go back to rabbit ears. But in light of the news that Americans will be consuming the 2012 London Summer Games with…

Human rights on the Internet

The Human Rights Council of the UN has adopted a resolution supporting the equivalency of human rights online and offline – “in particular, freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice.” The Council is calling on all states to promote and facilitate access to the Internet. Why is this important? Because this will be translated into the national policy of many countries. It won’t be equivalently translated – Rebecca MacKinnon has made brilliantly clear that China (a signatory to today’s resolution) sees…

Derecho and deregulation

As John Schwartz’s excellent article today reports, nearly two million people in 10 states and the District of Columbia are sweltering after the recent derecho. If those people rely on high-speed Internet access to communicate and services are down, who’s going to do anything about it? Answer: As far as I can tell, no one. Unless the private companies involved feel like fixing things, they have no particular obligation to leap up and spend the money to help. And it’s not as if competition makes them worry that they’ll lose…

The sledgehammer of usage-based billing

Brian Stelter’s article today, “Sweeping Effects as Broadband Moves To Meters,” illuminates a part of the local cable monopoly story for high-speed Internet access and the consequences of this power for America’s future. There is an epic narrative here that is worth a full-length action movie. Or two. (Who would play Brian Stelter? Perhaps this could be the beginning of his “All the President’s Men” career. Woodward and Bernstein got Hoffman and Redford, after all.) The precis of the story: : Time Warner Cable is moving to charging for tiers of…

Monday news

It looks as if the FCC is planning for the Verizon/Comcast deal of late last year to be approved. We don’t have many details, but Verizon is said to be swapping spectrum with T-Mobile (with more spectrum going to T-Mobile than Verizon) in exchange for both implicit and explicit promises. The explicit promise is a relatively small payment (perhaps a few hundred million dollars) from T-Mobile to Verizon; the implicit promise is that scrappy T-Mobile will drop its opposition to the larger transaction. It also appears that the particular spectrum…