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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.)   

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.

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.   

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?   

Why the FCC Approach to Special Access Regulation Is All Wrong

The FCC’s approach to special access is all wrong because they should be doing the exact opposite of what they are doing. The FCC should be price de-regulating special access, not signaling increased micro-regulation of special access rate terms and conditions.

Like an ostrich, the FCC has its head hidden in the sand on its approach to special access regulation, hoping that no one notices that the rest of its body is fully exposed.   

If the FCC can convince everyone to join them and put their heads in the sand too, and to look at special access regulation in the dark of self-defined isolation, and ignore the broader context of the competitive U.S. communications sector visible all around them, the FCC has a reasonable chance of sounding reasonable.

However, if anyone has their head out of the FCC’s regulatory sandpit and looks around for a moment at special access regulation in the broader context of the real world, more special access regulation looks ridiculous, just like the exposed back-end of an ostrich does when it hides its head in the sand.  

Will Government Spectrum Permissions Throttle 4G Evolution to 5G Wireless?

To try to justify mandating Title II utility regulation of broadband and the blocking of the Comcast-Time Warner acquisition, the Administration and FCC had to gerrymander broadband definitions to reach their political goal that wireless broadband service not be considered an official competitor to wireline broadband service.

Never mind the obvious: that the nearly three quarters of Americans who use a smartphone know  that one can functionally do most everything one wants on a mobile smartphone/tablet/laptop that one can do on a wireline connection. Also never mind: tens of millions of Americans who use only wireless broadband for all their Internet needs.   

To try to justify preempting State limitations of gigabit muni-broadband build-outs and its cheerleading for Government Owned Networks (GON) to politically and economically devalue commercial broadband competition, the government had to ensure that the wireless industry could not create four more very-high-speed competitors to wireline cable and telco broadband providers.

It did so by unilaterally changing Federal spectrum policy to starve and limit the amount of licensed and unlicensed spectrum available to wireless users long-term, because for smartphone users -- spectrum is speed. Limit spectrum, limit speed, to maintain the charade that wireless broadband does not compete with wireline broadband.

Top Ten Questions about FTC-Google-Android Antitrust Probe

The U.S. FTC has opened an antitrust probe of Google’s Android mobile operating system per Bloomberg reporting to investigate allegations that Google has anti-competitively limited competitive services on the Google-Android platform and extended its market power by favoring Google services over competitors’.

Top Ten Questions Raised by FTC’s Google-Android Probe     

Municipalities: Broadband Is Not a ‘Core Utility’

It is timely to fact check the Federal Government’s storyline that broadband is a ‘core utility,’ given a new White House report that directs municipalities that broadband is a “core utility… like water, sewer and electricity;” and given that a senior FCC official recently encouraged local municipalities at the NATOA conference to build their own local broadband infrastructure with the FCC’s backing now that the FCC has claimed the legal authority to preempt State laws limiting municipal broadband.    


Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths