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FCC Denies the Effective Wireless Competition Staring it in the Face -- Internet Competition Series Part III

In another blow to its competition policy credibility and objectivity, the FCC's 308 page, 15th Wireless Competition Report, amazingly reached no conclusion about whether the wireless market was effectively competitive, despite overwhelming evidence of effective competition throughout the report and a dearth of evidence in the report of any discernible anti-competitive issues that would suggest the wireless market was somehow not effectively competitive.

 

  • The stark incongruity between the overwhelming evidence in the report, and the absence of what should have been an easy report conclusion that the wireless market is effectively competitive, is certainly not "data-driven policy making at work.
  • It appears to be politics at work to support and provide political cover for the FCC's maverick policy desire to promote de-competition policy and more expansive FCC economic regulation and common carrier-like duties a la net neutrality and data roaming -- in the face of strong opposition from Congress and the Courts that the FCC is over-reaching its statutory authority.

 

If only the FCC absorbed the significance of the data compiled in their own report, the FCC would conclude that the wireless market was effectively competitive.

 

Expect Google's Privacy Problems to Threaten Bubble 2.0

Expect Google's bull-in-a-china-shop entry into social, to try and neutralize FaceBook, to bring lots more major unwanted privacy attention to the privacy-challenged social media business model, and to contribute to the eventual bursting of the Internet investment Bubble 2.0.

 

  • The hot air that is inflating the social media Bubble 2.0 is that people somehow want to forfeit their privacy to socialize more efficiently, and that social media business models can indefinitely monetize privacy arbitrage against users' interests without consequence.
    • (See Part I of this series here.)
  • Ironically, the investment fate of social media, and Bubble 2.0, will depend less on what social media companies do, and more of what the leviathan Google does in social media.
    • The venture capital community has long been painfully aware of the Google-leviathan's  outsized effect on every other VC investment, because they always ask start-ups "What if Google Does It?"

 

I.   Privacy Baseline is on the Move: Bipartisan Interest in Privacy Protection Strengthening

Anyone following social media or Google would be remiss to not notice the flurry of recent bipartisan, bicameral, and bi-branch interest in increasing privacy protection of online users in just the last few weeks.

 

FTC-Google Privacy Settlement Takeaways

The proposed FTC-Google privacy settlement of EPIC's privacy complaint has many important, surprising, and far-reaching implications.

 

I applaud the FTC for taking Google's privacy misrepresentations and deceptions so seriously and look forward to the FTC rigorously enforcing this landmark consent order.

    Summary of Takeaways:

     

    AT&T - T-Mobile: Opponents Have Competition Double Standard

    Why is there a selective political fixation on AT&T-T-Mobile's ~43% combined market share when so many related markets are dramatically more concentrated, less competitive, or even monopolized?

    • This blatant competition double standard originates from the political agenda of the FreePress/Silicon Valley net neutrality regulatory complex that seeks a broadband industrial policy -- to create an information commons and generate tens of billions of dollars in implicit bandwidth subsidies for Silicon Valley special interests.

    When the FCC does the "data-driven analysis" that it claims to value, it will discover a blatant competition double standard where broadband critics gerrymander and torture broadband market share statistics to raise the specter of a broadband "opoly" -- to justify broadband regulation.

     

    • It is telling that opponents have to bring Verizon, which has nothing to do with the AT&T-T-Mobile transaction, into the equation in order to manufacture market shares of concern.
    • The outrageous and unsubstantiated implication of opponents' "Ma Bell duopoly" narrative here is that broadband competitors will anti-competitively collude, when all the evidence is that Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Metro PCS, Leap Wireless and others compete fiercely and relentlessly in multiple dimensions: price, value, device choice, quality, technology, plans, and innovation.

     

    FCC is Losing the Wireless Future

    It will be surprising if the Republican FCC Commissioners and a bipartisan majority of Congress do not oppose the FCC's unwarranted war on wireless competition policy.

     

    • The FCC appears to be itching to start another political battle over competition policy with its upcoming fifteenth wireless competition report to Congress, by making another political decision devoid of supporting evidence or merit, that the wireless market does not have "effective competition."
      • Such a fantastical political finding, helps the FCC to ignore Congress and the law yet again, and also to unilaterally impose new sweeping economic regulations on wireless, including net neutrality.

     

    The linchpin of the FCC's de-competition policy to restore the FCC to its pre-1996 monopoly regulation glory days, and to put the FCC in more control of the communications sector going forward, is to politically define away the existence of "effective competition," in order to justify FCC regulation of the mobile Internet.

     

    Privacy Will Burst Bubble 2.0

    Expect privacy concerns to be the eventual catalyst that ultimately bursts the Internet investment Bubble 2.0. It is rare when there is a profound disconnect and suspension of reality between industry behavior/investment expectations and customer wants, needs and expectations, but that is precisely what is at work in Bubble 2.0.

     

    • Almost by definition, investment bubbles are unsustainable; what goes up must come down, it is only a matter of how and when -- not if.
    • Simply what fuels Bubble 2.0  is the patently false core assumption that the current unfettered, widespread, and largely clandestine data mining of individuals private information in order to target specific individuals with personalized online advertising:
      • Is aligned with real user interests;
      • Is a forthright business practice consumers are aware of and have meaningfully consented to;
      • Will not be legally constrained in the future; and
      • Will become the accepted norm -- meaning that the populace and governments will adapt to the wishes and desires of the online-ad- industry and not the other way around.
    • In a word, is online tracking, profiling and data mining a consumer-driven model? -- or a consumer-dragged model?

      This is deja vu for me. I've seen this movie before when I had a front row seat as the original dotcom Bubble 1.0 wiped away $4 trillion in market valuation in a few weeks.

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