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Pai challenges the notion of government providing a free, open internet

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai today laid out his vision for removing broadband access from under Title II regulations imposed in 2015 by a 3-2 Democratic majority on the Commission.  Two decades prior to the Commission’s net neutrality order that imposed Title II regulations, the internet was already free and open. Companies such as Google, Facebook, and Netflix came into being under a non-Title II regime. Title II was an archaic regulation designed in the 1930s for plain old telephone services.

Title II boiled down to a solution in search of a problem, Mr Pai further argued. Rather than energizing a demoralized Democratic Party base licking its wounds from the butt hurt of the 2014 mid term elections, Former president Barack Obama and the rest of his Title II proponents wound up disincentiving $5.1 billion in capital investment and dissuaded companies to not hire or lay off 75,000 to 100,000 laborers.

What particularly caught my attention in Mr Pai’s remarks was his highlighting the belief that Title II proponents have about government and freedom, namely that government was going to guarantee freedom on the internet. A close read of the American Constitution tells you that its framers were concerned about the natural propensity of government to squash freedom. This is why the document put in place checks and balances against attempts to usurp power over individuals. Net neutrality opponents and members in Congress who support continued imposition of the rules confuse “rights” with “freedom.” The rights issued by government are permission slips that say “a person can be, but only up to the limits we allow them to be” versus freedom which is innate.

This is not to say that freedom doesn’t have its limits. You can’t just violate another person’s spectrum without facing the consequences that result from moving into another person’s space. But how those consequences are managed should be left up to the individuals or in the case of broadband, the broadband access providers and their customers. Allow customers and access providers to define the limits, terms, and consequences of their relationship, including price and type of service. In the 21st century, this type of strategic partnership between customer and access provider is very possible.

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Mr. Obama drinks the net neutrality kool-aid

Posted November 10th, 2014 in Federal Communications Commission, net neutrality, Obama and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Mr. Obama, unfortunately, has fallen for the #TitleII argument for regulating the #internet, erroneously arguing that the internet has been operating via net neutrality since the beginning of time. Wrong.

Certain traffic has always been sent before others because of the traffic’s makeup i.e. e-mail versus video. Title II would create various levels of internet service just like it did for telephone service. Also, Title II regulation means FCC and state approval of new services, just like Title II required of telephone services.

For those of us who worked in telecommunications regulation, we witnessed first hand how long and burdensome the approval process is for new services. Bottom line, if you want to see a slow down in the introduction of new internet services, go ahead and throw your support behind the President and Title II/net neutrality.

The President may have been a great constitutional law professor, but on telecommunications law, he needs to do his homework…..

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Could Obamacare scare broadband adoption?

Posted October 22nd, 2013 in Broadband, digital divide, Federal Communications Commission, Obama by Alton Drew

The Federal Communications Commission and the Obama Administration have as a social policy goal access to high-speed broadband services by every American household. Although a finely-tuned website for accessing health insurance companies may not have been a part the FCC’s or the Administration’s broadband adoption plans, you can see where there could be an indirect impact on adoption.

First, the Administration is miffed that the Healthcare.gov website’s glitches may be a turn off to a tech-savvy younger generation. According to Bloomberg Business Week, “The failures may discourage the young, healthy, web-savvy consumers whose participation is critical to offset the risk of insuring older, sicker people and to keep the program sustainable.”

And what of older people and their use of the Internet? Overall 15% of adults do not use the Internet according to Pew Research. In addition, 32% of non-Internet users site difficulty of usage of the Internet and computers as reasons for not adopt9ing broadband.

Approximately 43% of adults 65 and over have broadband at home compared to 80% of adults age 18-29. A website that doesn’t reach the young sure won’t reach the old.

Policy wise, while Healthcare.gov won’t derail the national broadband plan, it’s not helping it either.

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Obama administration unveils initiative to encourage broadband deployment

Posted September 17th, 2013 in Broadband, capital, economy, Obama, wireless communications and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Yesterday the Obama administration announced the latest policy that it hopes encourages greater deployment of broadband facilities. The policy is centered on providing broadband carriers with data that shows which government properties are available for access in order to deploy an antenna or run cable.

Last year there was some chatter out of the administration about granting providers a right-of-way in easements held by the federal government along its highways and interstates. With a mapping feature, broadband providers can identify roof tops for placing antennas. For example:

“An interactive mapping tool that allows carriers and communities to view and identify opportunities to leverage Federal properties for the deployment of high-speed Internet networks. For example this map can help the wireless industry identify Federal rooftops where commercial antennas can be placed to support wireless networks. The national map includes data on broadband availability, environmental or historic information, property locations, and contact information so companies can easily obtain more information. The map was built with open government data, displayed in a new way to make it easier for carriers to take advantage of Federal assets in planning or expanding their networks.”

According to the executive order upon which the initiatives are based, the Administration believes the social goal of expanding broadband to all American households can be facilitated by providing the broadband sector with data on existing opportunities for placing facilities. With 10,000 buildings and 30% of all land under federal ownership, it appears that the Administration believes making the private sector aware of these spaces will lead to greater broadband availability for consumers.

The Administration did mention some operational costs savings to a broadband provider. For example, the “Dig Once” initiative allows carriers to time their deployment activities to coincide with an ongoing road or highway construction. The Administration estimates cost savings on deployment at a rate of 90%.

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Comparing Romney to Obama on potential broadband policy

Posted September 20th, 2012 in Broadband, Election 2012, FCC, Government Regulation, Mitt Romney, net neutrality, Obama and tagged , , , by Alton Drew

Last week the Innovation Technology and Information Foundation released a report comparing the expected policies and platforms of President Barack Obama, Governor Mitt Romney, and the Republican and Democratic parties in a number of areas including broadband, special access, and spectrum. Here is a summation of the findings in the report.

On broadband, specifically a digital infrastructure, President Obama has promoted a robust wireless and wireline broadband infrastructure capable of supporting an enhanced electrical grid, health care, and education. The Romney campaign has not articulated a position on the nation’s digital infrastructure.

The Obama Administration would like to see high-speed wireless capability within reach of 98% of Americans. The Romney campaign has not taken a position on expanding high-speed wireless access, but current FCC members agree with Democrats on the issue of modernizing the Universal Service Fund mechanism to support access to broadband.

In the area of special access, the Democratic majority on the FCC supports suspending deregulation of special access, while Republicans want to see deregulation continued.

Republicans and Democrats agree that the USF should be modernized so that rural and underserved households receive greater access to broadband services.

Republicans are opposed to the FCC’s net neutrality rules that were imposed in December 2010. Democrats, including the President, have been steadfast about removing the rules. While Democrats would like to see net neutrality rules not applied to wireless services, Republicans want the same forbearance for both broadband wireline and wireless services.

Can we really say we see any surprises?