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Closing the Rural Digital Divide Requires Understanding the Rural Digital Divide

TOTM I had the pleasure last month of hosting the first of a new annual roundtable discussion series on closing the rural digital divide through the University of Nebraska’s Space, Cyber, and Telecom Law Program. The purpose of the roundtable was to convene a diverse group of stakeholders for a discussion of the on-the-ground reality of closing the rural digital divide.

I had the pleasure last month of hosting the first of a new annual roundtable discussion series on closing the rural digital divide through the University of Nebraska’s Space, Cyber, and Telecom Law Program. The purpose of the roundtable was to convene a diverse group of stakeholders — from farmers to federal regulators; from small municipal ISPs to billion dollar app developers — for a discussion of the on-the-ground reality of closing the rural digital divide.

Read the full piece here.

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Innovation & the New Economy

Net Neutrality Paranoia

TOTM The paranoid style is endemic across the political spectrum, for sure, but lately in the policy realm haunted by the shambling zombie known as “net neutrality,” the pro-Title II set are taking the rhetoric up a notch. This time the problem is, apparently, that the FCC is not repealing Title II classification fast enough, which surely must mean … nefarious things?

The paranoid style is endemic across the political spectrum, for sure, but lately in the policy realm haunted by the shambling zombie known as “net neutrality,” the pro-Title II set are taking the rhetoric up a notch. This time the problem is, apparently, that the FCC is not repealing Title II classification fast enough, which surely must mean … nefarious things? Actually, the truth is probably much simpler: the Commission has many priorities and is just trying to move along its docket items by the numbers in order to avoid the relentless criticism that it’s just trying to favor ISPs.

Read the full piece here.

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities

The FCC Should Abandon Title II and Return to Antitrust

Popular Media The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon vote on whether to repeal an Obama-era rule classifying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as “common carriers.” That rule . . .

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon vote on whether to repeal an Obama-era rule classifying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as “common carriers.” That rule was put in place to achieve net neutrality, an attractive-sounding goal that many Americans—millennials especially—reflexively support.

Read the full piece here.

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities

Calm down, everyone! ‘Neutrality’ changes don’t mean Net becomes the Wild West

Popular Media In response to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) proposal to rescind its so-called “net neutrality” rules, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker tweeted that the FCC is “giving corporations . . .

In response to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) proposal to rescind its so-called “net neutrality” rules, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker tweeted that the FCC is “giving corporations power over the once neutral internet.”

Booker and his social media allies think the new rules will destroy the internet as we know it. Except, they won’t.

Read the full piece here.

 

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities

Privacy Comments, Restoring Internet Freedom NPRM

Regulatory Comments As the Commission’s NPRM notes, the 2015 Open Internet Order “has weakened Americans’ online privacy by stripping the Federal Trade Commission — the nation’s premier consumer protection agency — of its jurisdiction over ISPs’ privacy and data security practices.”

Summary

As the Commission’s NPRM notes, the 2015 Open Internet Order “has weakened Americans’ online privacy by stripping the Federal Trade Commission — the nation’s premier consumer protection agency — of its jurisdiction over ISPs’ privacy and data security practices.”1 The Restoring Internet Freedom NPRM further notes that:

To address the gap created by the Commission’s reclassification of broadband Internet access service as a common carriage service, the Title II Order called for a new rulemaking to apply section 222’s customer proprietary network information provisions to Internet service providers. In October 2016, the Commission adopted rules governing Internet service providers’ privacy practices and applied the rules it adopted to other providers of telecommunications services. In March 2017, Congress voted under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to disapprove the Commission’s 2016 Privacy Order, which prevents us from adopting rules in substantially the same form.

The Restoring Internet Freedom NPRM proposes to return to the status quo in place before the Commission adopted its 2015 Open Internet Order with respect to privacy rules: not to adopt any new FCC rules, and leave regulation of privacy to the FTC.3 We offer these comments in response to the Commission’s request regarding that proposal.

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities

Policy Comments, Restoring Internet Freedom NPRM

Regulatory Comments "Federal administrative agencies are required to engage in “reasoned decisionmaking” based on a thorough review and accurate characterization of the record. Their analysis must be based on facts and reasoned predictions; it must be rooted in sound economic reasoning: it must be logically coherent..."

Summary

“Federal administrative agencies are required to engage in “reasoned decisionmaking” based on a thorough review and accurate characterization of the record. Their analysis must be based on facts and reasoned predictions; it must be rooted in sound economic reasoning; it must be logically coherent; it must not entail subterfuge or misleading statements. On even these most basic grounds the 2015 OIO falls short.

The entire open Internet rulemaking enterprise is an exercise in post hoc rationalization — the formulation of policy, not statutory interpretation. Net neutrality was determined by certain activists to be “necessary;” proponents were unable to get it from Congress; the FCC was willing; and it tried at least three times to cobble together some statutory basis to justify its preference for open Internet rules, as opposed to determining that such rules were necessary to enforcing a particular statutory provision.

The post hoc/ultra vires problem with the 2015 OIO is disturbingly similar to the one at issue in State Farm, which sets the standard by which the sufficiency of the Commission’s analysis is judged. In that case, the Court held that an agency’s (NHTSA’s) decisionmaking did not follow from the anal- ysis it undertook, nor the statutory purpose it purported to further. The same is true here. If deployment really were the aim of the 2015 OIO, the FCC could have directly encouraged it through any number of more direct (and almost certainly more effective) means. Instead, the Commission concocted a regulatory Rube Goldberg apparatus to do so only, at best, indirectly — and in a way that happened also to further a different, arguably ultra vires objective. Perhaps most tellingly, the

Commission was forced to undertake a series of actions, superficially independent of the 2015 OIO, in order to engineer several of the factual predicates necessary to enable it to justify its rule under the statute. An agency properly acting within the scope of its au- thority would not have to work so hard to fit the round peg of its chosen policy into the square hole of its statute.”

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities

The Internet Conduct Rule Must Die

TOTM It’s fitting that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently compared his predecessor’s jettisoning of the FCC’s light touch framework for Internet access regulation without hard evidence . . .

It’s fitting that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently compared his predecessor’s jettisoning of the FCC’s light touch framework for Internet access regulation without hard evidence to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s James Harden trade. That infamous deal broke up a young nucleus of three of the best players in the NBA in 2012 because keeping all three might someday create salary cap concerns. What few saw coming was a new TV deal in 2015 that sent the salary cap soaring.

Read the full piece here.

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities

Clearing up the Senate’s confusion on FCC privacy rules

Popular Media At an oversight hearing on Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee confronted Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai with questions over last week’s partial stay of the . . .

At an oversight hearing on Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee confronted Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai with questions over last week’s partial stay of the commission’s broadband privacy order. While privacy rules are certainly highly complicated, comments from some senators telegraphed a fundamental misunderstanding of what has been done to date to protect consumers, and given the current ecosystem, what the FCC’s proper role should be going forward.

Read the full piece here.

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities

Class(less) Action: Undermining Consumers at the FCC Law360

Popular Media Over the weekend, Sen. Al Franken and Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Mignon Clyburn issued an impassioned statement calling for the FCC to thwart the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in internet service providers’ consumer service agreements ...

Excerpt

Over the weekend, Sen. Al Franken and Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Mignon Clyburn issued an impassioned statement calling for the FCC to thwart the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in internet service providers’ consumer service agreements — starting with a ban on mandatory arbitration of privacy claims in the chairman’s proposed privacy rules. Unfortunately, their call to arms rests upon a number of inaccurate or weak claims. Before the commissioners vote on the proposed privacy rules later this week, they should carefully consider whether consumers would actually be served by such a ban.

To begin with, it is firmly cemented in U.S. Supreme Court precedent that the Federal Arbitration Act “establishes ‘a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements.’” As the court recently held:
[The FAA] reflects the overarching principle that arbitration is a matter of contract … [C]ourts must “rigorously enforce” arbitration agreements according to their terms … That holds true for claims that allege a violation of a federal statute, unless the FAA’s mandate has been “overridden by a contrary congressional command.”
For better or for worse, that’s where the law stands, and it is the exclusive province of Congress — not the FCC — to change it. Yet nothing in the Communications Act (to say nothing of the privacy provisions in Section 222 of the act) constitutes a “contrary congressional command.”

And perhaps that’s for good reason. In enacting the statute, Congress didn’t demonstrate the same pervasive hostility toward companies and their relationships with consumers that has characterized the way this FCC has chosen to enforce the act. As Commissioner Michael O’Rielly noted in dissenting from the privacy notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM):
I was also alarmed to see the Commission acting on issues that should be completely outside the scope of this proceeding and its jurisdiction. For example, the Commission seeks comment on prohibiting carriers from including mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts with their customers. Here again, the Commission assumes that consumers don’t understand the choices they are making and is willing to impose needless costs on companies by mandating how they do business.

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Telecommunications & Regulated Utilities