Archive for the ‘Net Neutrality’ Category

Comcast does so much lobbying that it says disclosing it all is too hard

May 23rd, 2019
A Comcast sign at the Comcast offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Enlarge / A Comcast sign at the Comcast offices in Philadelphia, Penn. (credit: Getty Images | Cindy Ord )

Comcast may be harming its reputation by failing to reveal all of its lobbying activities, including its involvement in trade associations and lobbying at the state level, a group of shareholders says in a proposal that asks for more lobbying disclosures.

Comcast's disclosures for its lobbying of state governments "are often cursory or non-existent," and Comcast's failure to disclose its involvement in trade associations means that "investors have neither an accurate picture of the company's total lobbying expenditures nor an understanding of its priorities, interests, or potential risks from memberships," the proposal said. "Comcast's lack of transparency around its lobbying poses risks to its already troubled reputation, which is concerning in a highly regulated industry, especially given the rise of public Internet alternatives."

The proposal is on the ballot for Comcast's June 5 annual shareholder meeting and was filed by Friends Fiduciary, which "invest[s] based on Quaker values" and says it "actively screen[s] companies for social responsibility." Friends Fiduciary and other investors who joined the proposal collectively hold "over 1 million shares of Comcast stock," they said.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Comcast, lobbying, municipal broadband, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

House votes to restore net neutrality as White House threatens Trump veto

April 10th, 2019
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) speaking while standing behind a podium and holding a paper copy of a net neutrality bill during a press conference, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats look on.

Enlarge / Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), left, discusses a net neutrality bill as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) listens during a news conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The US House of Representatives today voted to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules, approving a bill that would reverse the Trump-era FCC's repeal of rules that formerly prohibited blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. The vote was 232-190, with 231 Democrats and one Republican supporting the bill, and 190 Republicans voting against it. Four Democrats and six Republicans did not vote.

The bill isn't likely to become law, though, as it could be either blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate or vetoed by President Trump. White House staff on Monday recommended that Trump veto the bill, claiming that the net neutrality repeal spurred new broadband deployment—even though Federal Communications Commission data doesn't actually support that conclusion.

The Democrats' "Save the Internet Act" doesn't even seem likely to reach Trump, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared it "dead on arrival."

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Posted in FCC, house, Net Neutrality, Policy, Senate, Trump | Comments (0)

FTC confirms ISPs can block and throttle as long as they disclose it

April 1st, 2019
A laptop with a no-entry sign over its screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | pictafolio)

When repealing net neutrality rules, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and fellow Republicans argued that consumers had nothing to worry about, because the Federal Trade Commission would protect them from discriminatory practices by Internet service providers.

But there was never any good reason to think the FTC could come close to replacing FCC oversight of broadband providers, and FTC Chairman Joseph Simons essentially confirmed it in a speech last week.

Simons said that "blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization would not be per se antitrust violations." By contrast, the now-repealed FCC rules prohibited all three classes of behavior on a per se basis, Simons noted. Simons made the remarks at a telecom policy conference hosted by the Free State Foundation, a free-market think tank (see transcript).

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Posted in blocking, FCC, FTC, joseph simons, Net Neutrality, paid prioritization, Policy, throttling | Comments (0)

FCC has to pay journalist $43,000 after hiding net neutrality records

March 22nd, 2019
Shredded documents with a magnifying glass and the words,

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Nicholas Rigg)

The Federal Communications Commission has settled a case over its refusal to comply with a public records request, agreeing to pay $43,000 to a journalist who sued the commission.

Freelance writer Jason Prechtel filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC in mid-2017, asking for data that would identify who made bulk comment uploads in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Prechtel was trying to research comments that were falsely attributed to people without their knowledge.

The FCC didn't comply with the request and allegedly didn't even approve or deny the FOIA request within the legally allotted timeframe, so Prechtel sued the commission in September 2017. One year later, a US District Court judge presiding over the case ordered the FCC to stop withholding certain records sought by Prechtel, although the ruling didn't give Prechtel everything he asked for.

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Posted in ajit pai, FCC, FOIA, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

ISPs strike deal with Vermont to suspend state net neutrality law

March 15th, 2019
Illustration of a judge's gavel in front of Vermont's state flag.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Baris-Ozer)

The state of Vermont has agreed to suspend enforcement of its net neutrality law pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission.

In October, the nation's largest broadband industry lobby groups sued Vermont in a US District Court to stop a state law that requires ISPs to follow net neutrality principles in order to qualify for government contracts. But the lobby groups and state agreed to delay litigation and enforcement of the Vermont law in a deal that they detailed in a joint court filing yesterday. The lawsuit against Vermont was filed by mobile industry lobby CTIA, cable industry lobby NCTA, telco lobby USTelecom, the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the American Cable Association (ACA).

The delay will remain in place until after a final decision in the lawsuit seeking to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal and the FCC's preemption of state net neutrality laws. Vermont is one of 22 states that sued the FCC in that case in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Tech companies and consumer advocacy groups are also opposing the FCC in the same case. Oral arguments were held last month, and DC Circuit judges will likely issue a decision in the coming months.

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Posted in Net Neutrality, Policy, Vermont | Comments (0)

Democrats’ net neutrality bill would fully restore Obama-era FCC rules

March 6th, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looking on, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol Building on May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted and passed a Resolution of Disapproval to undo President Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality rules.

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looking on, speaks at a press conference at the Capitol Building on May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. The Senate voted and passed a Resolution of Disapproval to undo President Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality rules. (credit: Mark Wilson | Getty Images)

Democrats in Congress today introduced a net neutrality bill that would fully restore the Obama-era rules that were repealed by the FCC's current Republican majority.

The "Save the Internet Act" is just three pages long. Instead of writing a new set of net neutrality rules, the bill would nullify FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's December 2017 repeal of the FCC order passed in February 2015 and forbid the FCC from repealing the rules in the future.

"A full 86 percent of Americans opposed the Trump assault on net neutrality, including 82 percent of Republicans. That's hopeful," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference announcing the bill today. "With the Save the Internet Act, the Democrats are honoring the will of the people."

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Posted in Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

Ajit Pai says broadband access is soaring—and that he’s the one to thank

February 20th, 2019
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seen from the side as he listens during a Senate committee hearing.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai listens during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Ajit Pai says the Federal Communications Commission's annual broadband assessment will show that his deregulatory policies have substantially improved access in the United States. The annual report will also conclude that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely basis.

The FCC hasn't released the full Broadband Deployment Report yet and won't do so until the commission votes on whether to approve the draft version sometime in the next few weeks. For now, the FCC has only issued a one-page press release with a few data points and some quotes from Chairman Pai in which he claims that his policy changes caused the improvements.

But Pai offered no proof of any connection between his policy decisions and the increased deployment. Moreover, broadband deployment improved at similar rates during the Obama administration, despite Pai's claims that the FCC's net neutrality rules harmed deployment during that period.

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Posted in ajit pai, broadband, FCC, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

Cable lobby asks for net neutrality law allowing paid prioritization

February 7th, 2019
The words,

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | nevarpp)

Cable industry chief lobbyist Michael Powell today asked Congress for a net neutrality law that would ban blocking and throttling but allow Internet providers to charge for prioritization under certain circumstances.

Powell—a Republican who was FCC chairman from 2001 to 2005 and is now CEO of cable lobby group NCTA—spoke to lawmakers today at a Communications and Technology subcommittee hearing on net neutrality (see a transcript of Powell's prepared testimony).

Powell said there is "common ground around the basic tenets of net neutrality rules: There should be no blocking or throttling of lawful content. There should be no paid prioritization that creates fast lanes and slow lanes, absent public benefit. And, there should be transparency to consumers over network practices."

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Posted in Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

FCC struggles to convince judge that broadband isn’t “telecommunications”

February 1st, 2019
A protestor holds a sign with a picture of a bullhorn and the words,

Enlarge / A protester holds a sign outside FCC headquarters on Dec. 14, 2017 before the vote to repeal net neutrality rules. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

A Federal Communications Commission lawyer faced a skeptical panel of judges today as the FCC defended its repeal of net neutrality rules and deregulation of the broadband industry.

FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson struggled to explain why broadband shouldn't be considered a telecommunications service, and struggled to explain the FCC's failure to protect public safety agencies from Internet providers blocking or slowing down content.

Oral arguments were held today in the case, which is being decided by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (Audio of the four-hour-plus oral arguments is available here.) Throttling of firefighters' data plans played a major role in today's oral arguments.

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Posted in FCC, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

Net neutrality court case preview: Did FCC mess up by redefining broadband?

January 31st, 2019
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at a press conference on October 1, 2018, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Mark Wilson )

Oral arguments in the case against Ajit Pai's net neutrality repeal are scheduled for Friday morning, and net neutrality advocates are confident that they will be victorious.

The groups that sued the Federal Communications Commission to reverse the repeal argue that Pai offered insufficient legal justification for deregulating the broadband industry.

The Obama-era net neutrality rules, which were upheld in court in 2016, relied on the FCC's Title II authority over telecommunications services. When it eliminated the net neutrality rules, Pai's FCC argued that broadband is not a telecommunications service and that it should be treated instead as a lightly regulated information service.

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Posted in broadband, FCC, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)