Court Preview: Activists Expose Net Neutrality’s Biggest Legal Problems

Do not let the FCC’s likely unlawful means of broadband Internet regulation, i.e. Title II, distract you from the additional likelihood that two primary ends of supposed net neutrality “policy canon” i.e. bans against “paid prioritization” and “two-sided markets” (only users should pay), are also likely unlawful, even under Title II, sans new legislation.

A preview of oral arguments December 4 before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the legal challenge to the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order warrants more than the already well-covered standard comparison of both sides legal arguments over the legality of Title II.

In the 2014 Verizon v. FCC decision, that overturned much of the FCC’s net neutrality “effort to compel broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic the same regardless of source,” Judge David Tatel’s starting point was what does the FCC want to compel from others and does it have the legal authority and latitude to do so – sans new legislation.

(This analysis assumes the near obvious that Judge Tatel will lead and write this decision.)   

Google’s “Going Dark” Encryption Leadership Threatens Sovereign Security

Google is unique in its leadership, plans, and global marketpower to accelerate the majority of all global Web traffic “going dark,” i.e. encrypted by default. Google’s “going dark” leadership seriously threatens  to neuter sovereign nations’ law-enforcement and intelligence capabilities to investigate and prevent terrorism and crime going forward.

Google is not the only U.S. Internet company endangering the national security of many countries by “going dark” via end-to-end corporate encryption in an environment of exceptional terrorist risk -- Apple has been self-servingly irresponsible as well.

Nevertheless, Google warrants the spotlight and primary focus here on “going dark” for three big reasons.

A Free and Open Internet that Can’t Be Allowed to Be Free and Open?


You know there are big problems with the so called “principle” of net neutrality when the New York Times writes an editorial headlined “Why Free Can Be a Problem on the Internet” and their editorial has nothing to do with protecting consumers’ privacy/safety or protecting content from piracy, but it is only about the potential problem of consumers enjoying free Internet content for marketing purposes!

What a scandal! Someone call the FCC! Innovative commerce is happening on the Internet!

Few things make net neutrality activists look sillier, more nonsensical and hypocritical than their knee-jerk somber opposition to innovation in broadband pricing and marketing via differential pricing, sponsored data, zero-rating plans or other creative and experimental pricing or marketing plans – that all naturally result from a highly competitive wireless market.

Google’s “Mass Indiscriminate Surveillance” Threat to US-EU Data Safe Harbor

Google’s ongoing mass indiscriminate surveillance of Europeans’ private activities could threaten quick resolution of the European Court of Justice’s ruling that the US-EU Data Safe Harbor was invalid given the NSA’s “mass indiscriminate surveillance” exposed by Edward Snowden.

Google’s unique, systematic defiance of European sovereignty on these matters could warrant specifically excluding Google from what could be a timely reconstitution of the US-EU Data Safe Harbor, so that one bad actor does not spoil the whole process for the thousands of companies that have respected their Data Safe Harbor responsibilities.

Net Neutrality Trumping Privacy Undercut the US-EU Data Safe Harbor

Please don't miss my latest Daily Caller Op-ed, “Net Neutrality Trumping Privacy Undercut the US-EU Data Safe Harbor.”

  • It is proof positive of the law of unintended consequences coming home to roost for the U.S. Government.



What Lessig’s Presidential Candidacy Did for Net Neutrality & Copyright

No surprise that political activist Larry Lessig, the intellectual leader of the net neutrality and anti-copyright movements, ran one of the most cynical, undemocratic, and stunt-driven Presidential candidacies ever, because that’s exactly the kind of cynical, undemocratic, stunt-driven campaigns his political followers have run to un-democratically dictate net neutrality and to undermine copyright protection online. 

The “common” thread of Mr. Lessig’s political grand strategies is his core elitist political assumption that people are stupid and that he can manipulate the masses into believing whatever he wants them to believe.  

It is supremely rich and ironic that Mr. Lessig would run a Presidential campaign with the stated singular purpose of ending “corruption” by passing his version of campaign finance reform legislation, with such an apparent corrupt political Presidential campaign strategy. 

Let’s review Mr. Lessig’s stated Presidential campaign strategy to see if it appears corrupt.   

Google’s Gambit to Dominate Spectrum Access Administration

Google is cleverly and stealthily leveraging a Google-friendly-FCC and lax U.S.-Google antitrust enforcement to extend its global Android mobile operating system dominance to increasingly disintermediate and dominate the spectrum administration function embedded in the firmware of smartphones, connected cars, and Internet of Things devices.

Judge Wu’s New York Kangaroo Court for Alleged Internet Traffic Violations

Tim Wu, the self-described “policy advocate,” who coined the term “net neutrality;” who has been a leading activist for preemptively regulating broadband service like a utility despite scant evidence of any problem; who from 2008-2011 was Chair of the pressure group FreePress that ran the notoriously-deceptive “Save The Internet” campaign to force FCC net neutrality regulation that was overturned in court; who has been part of a decade-long PR demonization effort of broadband companies for first not having fast enough broadband speed relative to the world and then for enabling broadband “fast lanes” -- is now the “Senior Enforcement Counsel and Special Advisor” to the New York Attorney General, who is investigating Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and Verizon for allegedly providing broadband service at speeds less than the companies advertise.  

Does U.S. Antitrust Law Apply to Google?


How the DOJ and FTC handle two high-profile Google market behaviors that appear on their face to violate two different U.S. antitrust precedents, will speak volumes to the world about whether U.S. antitrust law still applies to Google, or not.

First, does the DOJ believe that the new search partnership between #3 Yahoo and #1 Google -- in the highly-concentrated U.S. search market -- is anti-competitive like the DOJ concluded previously in opposing the 2008 proposed Google-Yahoo search partnership?

The FCC’s Abjectly Illegitimate Premise for More Cable Regulation

There are troubling signals that the FCC is gearing up to further increase regulation of cable -- on top of the extra-legal new utility regulation the FCC already did in its 2015 Open Internet Order. 

What is profoundly troubling is the abject illegitimacy of their premise for more regulation of cable, i.e. the FCC’s new arbitrary and capricious definition of broadband that illegitimately redefined long-recognized, strong broadband competition -- out of existence with the stroke of a pen.

So what are the signals of more cable regulation? Two speeches from the FCC Chairman, one from the FCC General Counsel, another from the DOJ Antitrust Chief, a variety of Hill and edge-industry entreaties to regulate cable more via new MVPD or ALLVID regulatory proceedings, (but of course without regulating favored edge providers), and an explosion of new opposition to the proposed Charter-Time-Warner merger (by the exact same cast of characters whose opposition doomed the Comcast-Time-Warner merger).

This broad simultaneous level of focused regulatory chatter and organized activity is not coincidental, but highly-orchestrated and abjectly illegitimate.

Why is more cable regulation abjectly illegitimate?   


Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths