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Net Neutrality

7 Huge Flaws in FCC’s Title II Privacy NPRM; NetCompetition Comments

Summary: It is rare for an FCC proceeding to be so wrong-headed and ill-conceived that it has seven huge flaws. Tellingly this one does.

 

  1. The FCC is trying to force-fit inherently-irreconcilable, telephone closed-ecosystem privacy rules into its opposite -- a broadband open-system Internet.

  2. This approach is so convoluted and confusing there is no way for an average consumer to understand what part of their privacy is or is not now protected by the FCC and what part is or is not protected by the FTC.

  3. For privacy, the FCC’s Title II decision has been perversely subtractive in eliminating all FTC broadband consumer privacy protections, during the year-plus period while the FCC tries to figure out what FCC consumer privacy protections will be.  

Netflix’ Deceptive Throttling Will Have Lots of Unexpected Repercussions

For the last several years that Netflix has relished the role of Grand Net Neutrality Inquisitor accusing ISPs of throttling Internet traffic in alleged violation of net neutrality, Netflix actually has been secretly throttling its Internet-leading traffic in ways that it never disclosed to either its users, the public, or to the FCC/FTC.

This incredible net neutrality revelation could have lots more repercussions than many appreciate at first glance.  

We learned of this extraordinary duplicity from a WSJ story this week where Netflix was forced to fess up “that for more than five years it has limited its video speeds to most wireless carriers across the globe, including AT&T and Verizon…  Netflix said it doesn’t limit its video quality at two carriers: T-Mobile and Sprint because “historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies.”     

Consider these under-appreciated repercussions.

The FCC’s New Subtractive Privacy Policy

Less is not more. That’s real “common sense.”

When one’s actions demonstrably create a worse rather than better outcome net-net, like the FCC’s new Title II ISP privacy policy does, others would justifiably consider it a mistake.

While the FCC obviously complied with President Obama’s call for regulating broadband as a Title II utility, the FCC obviously ignored President Obama’s 2011 call  for a 21st century regulatory system, where he said we are “making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or are just plain dumb.”

Let’s consider how the FCC’s new privacy policy fails this President Obama stated standard for “modern” regulation.

When the FCC reclassified broadband to be a Title II telephone utility last year in its Open Internet Order, the FCC trumpeted one of the great net benefits would be increased consumer privacy protection.

FCC’s Arbitrary Competition Policy -- Edge Platforms Can’t Be Gatekeepers?

Looking backwards makes it hard to see what’s right in front of you.

Looking backwards at 1934-era Title II telephone utility law, the FCC concluded in its 2015 Open Internet Order that only broadband providers could be “gatekeepers” warranting net neutrality regulation to “protect and promote the “virtuous cycle” that drives innovation and investment on the Internet.

That’s because the FCC is apparently oblivious to the very different 21st century communications “gatekeepers” right in front of them that command dramatically more potential “gatekeeper” market power than any broadband provider.

The FCC should listen to what one 21st century communications provider, which commands well over a billion social and communications users globally, has to say about the dominance of edge platforms.

Consumer Confusion over FCC’s Arbitrary Privacy Policymaking

What’s a consumer to think about what the FCC’s responsibility is for their privacy protection?

Let me try to explain to a consumer what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arbitrarily has done, and apparently intends to do, for consumer internet privacy protection going forward.    

By way of background, for the first decade of the Internet when consumers used dial-up technology, the FCC was responsible for protecting consumers’ private network information from commercial use without their permission.

For the second decade of the Internet when consumers came to use broadband technology, the FCC ceded its dial-up-Internet privacy protection authority to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which became responsible for consumer privacy protection from unfair and deceptive practices consistently across the entire American Internet ecosystem, regardless of who interacted with consumers’ private information.

Last spring, in order to assert legal authority to enforce net neutrality to protect edge providers from potential traffic discrimination in the FCC’s Open Internet Order, the FCC incidentally clawed back some privacy authority over Internet communications -- over the FTC’s strong objections.

Questioning Google’s Extraordinary Influence over U.S. Government Decisions

Does the impartial administration of justice, the integrity of the U.S. Government, and the oath of all federal employees to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, require that private interests not be allowed to supplant the public interest?

Can “Bright Line” FCC Title II Discrimination Bans Be Just and Reasonable?

Net neutrality absolutists are overreaching yet again in their push for a practical FCC ban of ISP zero rating offers under the FCC’s case-by-case “General Conduct Standard” review, by claiming violations of the “bright-line rules” in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

The problem here is that net neutrality absolutists, in exploiting the political pejorative power of the word ‘discrimination,’ have politically oversold their Title II net neutrality policy as “bright-line” ‘non-discrimination’ bans, implying no discrimination allowed, when Title II actually only bans “unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”

This is a distinction here with a huge difference; and it apparently is giving the net neutrality absolutists fits. They want to imagine that Title II prohibits their absolutist ‘no discrimination’ frame when it clearly does not.

They want to find a technical “gotcha” in every zero-rating or sponsored data offering, no matter how unreasonable their conclusion, so they can politically ask it be banned by the FCC under their concept of what a ‘no discrimination’ principle should be.

Why FCC Title II Telephone Privacy Rules Can’t Work with an Open Internet

Square peg meet round hole.

The FCC is poised to try and force-fit inherently-irreconcilable, telephone closed-ecosystem privacy rules into a broadband open-system Internet. Good luck with that.

Expect the FCC to have fits trying to successfully craft workable, non-arbitrary, and legally-sustainable Title II broadband privacy rules in the year ahead.

It is a problem of the FCC’s own making.

In arbitrarily applying Title II telecommunications rules to only the ISP half of Internet communications, while politically exempting the entire edge half of Internet communications in its Open Internet order, the FCC has ensured that information that was proprietary and controllable in the closed telephone world becomes public and uncontrollable in the open Internet world.

Horses meet open barn door.

Net neutrality activists wrongly imagined that Title II was all-purpose-regulatory-authority to impose “the strongest possible” Open Internet rules they wanted, like bans on paid prioritization, zero rating or usage based pricing, despite decades of Title II and court precedents that determine many types of economic price discrimination and pricing flexibility to be just and reasonable.

Why Zero Rating & Flexible Pricing Options Are Just & Reasonable to FCC

Always be careful what you ask for, because you might get it.

Net neutrality absolutists demanded Title II regulation of the Internet in hopes of getting the “strongest possible” net neutrality rules.

They imagined Title II to be their ultimate tool and power to enforce whatever they want to redefine net neutrality to be, whenever they want to redefine it: e.g. no paid-prioritization, no zero rating offerings, no usage-based pricing, etc.

Never mind the nettlesome fact, that net neutrality, as a term, principle or concept, can’t be found in U.S. law.

And never mind the nettlesome Title II reality, that decades of FCC/court precedents have established that economic price discrimination can be, and often is, legally just and reasonable.  

Net neutrality absolutists had to learn in Comcast v. FCC that the FCC could not enforce net neutrality without prior net neutrality rules.  

They learned the FCC did not have the legal authority to ban commercially reasonable market behaviors in Verizon v. FCC.

The Net Neutrality Zero Rating Inquisition vs. the FCC

Historically accurate or not, the “Spanish Inquisition” is a well-known metaphor in literature for a group of intolerant elites that demanded orthodoxy from people, under threat of extreme consequences for heresy.

The twenty first century’s new technocratic elites, who politically made up net neutrality policy over the last fifteen years, are now sadly trying to dictate net neutrality orthodoxy on all the people of the world, whether or not they use the Internet.

These net neutrality absolutists are now accusing innovators of Internet “zero rating” plans, i.e. toll-free data plans, of net neutrality heresy, which must be punished severely with PR torture and banishment, in order to set an example for the masses of what happens to those who dare to challenge the church of net neutrality absolutism.

Recently in India, today’s modern day leaders of the Zero Rating Inquisition, Access Now activists, have demonized Facebook for the net neutrality heresy of offering a free stripped-down version of Internet access called “Free Basics” to the roughly billion Indians who can’t afford Internet access.

A rational person would say Facebook’s Free Basics offering is great and a very helpful innovation, because it’s so similar to the good of a library, school, or hospital that offers free services to the poor.

However, the net neutrality absolutists, who claim to be champions of free speech, are incensed that Facebook would empower a type of Internet free speech that is not pre-approved by them.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths