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America’s FCC-FTC Privacy Divide

[Note: This was submitted to the FCC for Reply Comments on the Title II Privacy NPRM]

The FCC’s Open Internet order and proposed Title II privacy rules divided what was unified.

For privacy, it broke what was working. Confused what was clear. Complicated what was simple. Unprotected what they sought to protect. Created more costs than benefits.

Since the Internet’s beginning the FTC has had privacy authority over information services.

For the decade since the FCC classified cable, wireless, and DSL broadband as an information service, and for the entire smartphone era where consumers became familiar with online privacy issues and regulation, the FTC was the sole unified regulator for protecting American consumers’ privacy.

In a 2014 filing to the FCC, the FTC explained why the FTC was better positioned to protect consumer privacy and data security than the FCC, because the FTC had national direct statutory authority to protect all consumers under: Section 5 -- that proscribes “deceptive” or “unfair” business practices; the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, (COPPA).

Did Judge Tatel Tattle on Title II Trouble with Chevron Deference for FCC?

The likelihood improved this week, that the Supreme Court could have an interest in hearing an appeal of the recent USTelecom v. FCC court decision that granted the FCC complete Chevron deference to uphold the FCC’s Title II reclassification of ISPs as utilities. That’s because a new unanimous 8-0 Supreme Court decision suggests that the USTelecom Court may have granted the FCC too much legal Chevron deference on its Title II reclassification. (A hat tip to Gus Hurwitz’ tweet for flagging the Title II relevance of this SCOTUS case and his great legal analysis is here.)    

New App-Based AllVid Proposal Smokes-out Google & Public Knowledge’s Agenda

Are the FCC’s set-top-box proposed rules really about unlocking the set-top-box to competition or are they really about advancing Google and Public Knowledge’s real agenda – forced unlocking of the licensing and copyright protections of the underlying video programming that generates ~$200b in annual revenues?

In response to the FCC Chairman’s request for an alternative approach to the FCC’s current AllVid proposed rules, the Pay TV coalition has proposed an app-based solution that solves all of the FCC’s publicly-stated problems with cable set-top boxes.

Top Takeaways from Appeals Court Upholding FCC Title II Internet Order

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 majority decision to completely uphold the FCC Open Internet Order on every single one of the ~couple dozen argued points, after the court had twice before not granted the FCC complete deference in overturning the FCC on these matters, surprised most everyone given the number and seriousness of the legal challenges put forth, and the selective skepticism the judges signaled at oral arguments.

Given that this total support of the FCC was not anticipated, what does this potentially seminal court precedent mean practically?

For now, the FCC effectively enjoys complete deference from this Court on Open Internet issues.

The majority dismissed every single one of the petitioners’ best legal, process, and constitutional challenges and proactively cauterized them with court assertions that the FCC’s actions were reasonable, supported by the evidence, and compliant with the APA, or that the challenges were unpersuasive.

NetCompetition on Judge Williams Dissent in Appeals Court Upholding FCC

June 14, 2016, Contact:  Scott Cleland 703-217-2407

Judge Williams Dissent in USTelecom v. FCC Lays Bare the Competition Problems With Both the Appeals Court Decision and the FCC’s Open Internet Order

WASHINGTON D.C. – The following may be attributed to Scott Cleland, Chairman of NetCompetition:

“There are big competition policy problems with the DC Court of Appeals 2-1 decision upholding the FCC’s 3-2 Open Internet Order that appear destined for the Supreme Court and Congress to ultimately resolve.”

“The court’s decision appears to effectively grant an FCC majority of three unelected commissioners with largely unfettered power to arbitrarily pick winners and losers in the competitive communications and Internet marketplaces without much administrative due process, explanation, justification, evidence or reasoned analysis.”  

FCC’s Competition Policy Blind Spot for Dominant “Edge” Incumbents - GAFA

The evidence increasingly proves that Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, companies collectively known as “GAFA,” are the dominant consumer-technology, “edge” platforms/incumbents in their respective communication sector markets of: information, smartphones, social media, and ecommerce.

The evidence below shows Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon to clearly be the emerging dominant communications incumbents of the 21st century communications sector ecosystem and that an apparent FCC assumption that “edge” companies cannot be a competition problem is both naïve and erroneous.   

Despite the FCC’s “competition, competition, competition” policy mantra, this GAFA dominance reality has not kept the FCC from slavishly favoring the dominant GAFA incumbents, as “insurgent” upstarts deserving of special FCC treatment and protection, in all of the FCC’s current major communications policy revamps it is making without Congress: i.e. its Title II Open Internet Order; its Title II ISP-only privacy rules; its AllVid set-top box rules; and its implicit wireless policy of favoring spectrum sharing and unlicensed spectrum over spectrum auctions and licensing. 

Why Google Can’t Buy Yahoo’s Search & Advertising Patents

Given that Google bought Motorola for its patents to protect itself from patent litigation, many assume Alphabet-Google to be a likely bidder and buyer of Yahoo’s reported sale of its portfolio of ~3,000 1990s search, advertising and ecommerce patents.

Au contraire, big antitrust vulnerabilities and a decade of Googlian hostility to the intellectual property rights of competitors effectively rule them out of this Yahoo auction.

Google’s lawyers have to appreciate that Google bidding on Yahoo’s patents would self-shine antitrust spotlights exactly where Google does not want them shined, and would attract attention to Google’s ignominious pattern of disrespect for the property of competitors and the bloody trail of intellectual property infringement lawsuits Google has uniquely provoked over the last fourteen years.

Why Google can’t buy Yahoo’s search, advertising & ecommerce patents.

Google-Android’s Strategy to Monopolize Home Digital Information & Services

Every company and industry competitor currently serving and targeting the digital home marketplace doesn’t know they are largely surrounded, but they are.

If one organizes and pieces together the many related things Google intimated at its I/O developer conference last month, especially about Google’s big advantage in conversational AI voice, with what we already know about what Google has already achieved and is doing, what kind of Google digital home strategy becomes clear?

The assembled pieces showcase a discernible big picture of an exceptionally comprehensive Google-Android strategy to try and monopolize the integrated connectivity of home automation (i.e. digital information, products and services) over time via: its strong advantage in conversational AI voice interface, Android dominance, and its proliferating OS tentacles -- very much like Google did with mobile search and search-related information, products, and services in increasingly dominating consumer digital services over the last decade.

Google’s Growing US Search/Android Share Complicates FCC’s AllVid Proposal

[Note: this blog was submitted to the FCC as a reply comment in the AllVid Set Top Box NPRM.]

As more evidence comes to light exposing Google’s much increased search and Android dominance in the U.S. since the FTC closed its search and Android antitrust probes in January 2013, it only becomes clearer that the FCC’s AllVid proposed rulemaking to “Unlock the [set-top] Box” is obviously anticompetitive overall, not pro-competitive as the FCC naively claims.

(A brief context refresh is needed here. In a nutshell, Google is the primary impetus behind the FCC’s controversial AllVid set top box proposal that would force U.S. pay-TV providers to effectively open-source  cable set-top boxes and the $200b worth of proprietary video programming/information that flows through them, so that Google and other edge platforms could monetize that proprietary video programming without a license -- for free.

Goobris: Google Expecting Less Privacy Regulation than its Competitors

Why does the company that by far collects the most private information that the FCC claims it wants to protect, and that also has the worst consumer privacy protection record with the FTC, (Google), get 99% exempted from the telecom and cable privacy protections expected of telephone, broadband, cable and satellite providers?  

Is it the same reason, that the edge platforms with much more gatekeeper power and private data collection opportunity than ISPs somehow warrant no FCC privacy regulation? (See info-graphic here; explanation here.)

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