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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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FCC member Ajit Pai opines on Communications Act review

Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai released the following statement about a proposal coming out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to revise the Communications Act of 1934:

“I welcome the announcement by Chairman Fred Upton and Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden that the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives will examine how to modernize the Communications Act to reflect the realities of a 21st century marketplace.   Some provisions of the Act have yellowed with age, unchanged, since the Great Depression; even those of more recent vintage predate the transformative impacts of the Internet, competition, and innovation.

In a converged industry, it does not make sense to apply different rules to providers and technologies that compete in the same markets.   Convergence is now the norm, and consumers, companies, and the Commission would be better off if our laws and regulations recognized as much.

As the Committee moves forward with its work, I stand ready and able to assist in whatever way I can.”

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Pai commends House commerce committee on consolidated reporting bill

Posted July 31st, 2013 in Congress, Federal Communications Commission and tagged , by Alton Drew

Here are comments made by Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai about the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s passage of the Consolidated Reporting Act:

“I commend the House Energy and Commerce Committee for passing the Federal
Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act and applaud Subcommittee Chairman
Walden, Ranking Member Eshoo and Representative Scalise for their leadership in sponsoring
this common-sense piece of legislation. The FCC’s reporting requirements are numerous,
burdensome, and sometimes obsolete. Replacing these disparate obligations with a single
biennial Communications Marketplace Report will make better use of limited Commission
resources. It will also provide Congress and the public with a comprehensive and far more
useful set of data that better reflects the realities of today’s converged marketplace. I hope that
this bipartisan legislation will soon be signed into law.”

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The FCC needs a Joshua Wright type to step up

Today Federal Trade Commission member Joshua Wright offered a definition of unfair method of competition during remarks made before the New York State Bar Association’s antitrust section. Mr. Wright argued that unfair method of competition as discussed in section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act left a lot of room for re-interpretation especially as commissions change due to members joining and moving on. A policy statement that set the definition more into regulatory stone would provide businesses with more certainty as they contemplate the appropriate business models necessary for entry into a market.

Unless Mr. Wright can sell his colleagues on the ideas he presented today, I wouldn’t worry about an in-depth analysis of what he offered, although what he offered was pretty substantive. The reason his proposed policy statement caught my eye, quite frankly, was because the statement was posted in a tweet by Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai which signaled to me that the statement was worth a look see.

My take away as it concerns the FCC is that the nation’s regulator of interstate telecommunications seems to skirt the issue of competition in the wireless telecommunications market. The FCC currently has a docket opened to address the state of competition in the wireless market. The FCC also avoids any declaration of competition in the wireless market which is peculiar given the existence of four major national players; AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, and a myriad of smaller carriers such as Virgin Mobile, Leap Wireless, ClearWire, and Boost Mobile.

A major part of the FCC’s problem, and I would suspect the FTC’s as well, is that they are too focused on the actual number and size of the players in the market. The very word, “market”, should be enough to set the FCC’s focus properly. Market is a relational term, and when we discuss markets, we are talking about the primary demand and supply relationship between consumer and producer. Given that the preamble of the Communications Act asks the FCC to concern itself with universal access by consumers to a communications network, the FCC has been focusing on just about everything else; from how much revenues T-Mobile generates to whether we, as consumers, actually give a damn about what management techniques Verizon uses to bring us broadband services.

Instead, the FCC’s focus should be on whether the consumers’ demand for services is being met; is the market providing the output necessary for meeting the communications needs of consumers. Given the increasing demand for smartphones and tablets with no reported problems with carriers opening up accounts, and again given the existence of four major carriers and quite a few regional carriers, the FCC should have been able to create a definition for competition that reflects what is happening in the market. It hasn’t done so. It hasn’t even tried.

What we need is a little boldness; for the FCC to step out and say, here is our policy statement on the meaning of competition. Here is what we mean by a competitive market. Until then, all I see is a 17th, 18th, and 19th state of wireless competition report that fails to definitively state that we are moving in the right direction.

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Is the FCC ready to practice a little net neutrality on itself?

Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai today shared with the Federal Communications Bar Association some thoughts on injecting some efficiency into the review process at the FCC. You can see his remarks here.

I feel Mr. Pai’s frustration. I remember as a analyst with Telecommunications Reports International my initial bewilderment with how long it took the FCC to make a decision in a docket. I had been spoiled during my tenure at the Florida Public Service Commission where staff and commissioners worked together to move items as quickly as possible through the review process. In addition, we were pretty transparent about the process, including seeing commissioners have lively and invigorating public debates on the issues.

Ironically, Mr. Pai proposed implementing an online dashboard that would give the public a play-by-play view of how well the FCC is meeting its review deadlines and other goals. It’s a great idea, but unless Mr. Pai is a great diver or swimmer, he shouldn’t hold his breath. As much as the FCC talks about robustness and transparency in the industry, allowing a robust public review of FCC actions through a transparent mechanism like an online dashboard is not a part of this FCC’s way of doing business.