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OpenMarket: Telecommunications

  • UnChartered Cronyism: The FCC's Attempts to Block Cable Merger

    February 29, 2016

    When you hear about “crony capitalism,” what comes to mind? The Export-Import Bank? The ethanol mandate? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Tax credits and loan guarantees for “green energy”? These are all prime examples of government intervention enriching narrow yet politically savvy corporate interests at the expense of taxpayers and consumers. But many other pernicious forms of crony capitalism slide under the radar. A case in point: the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) vetting of media and telecom mergers, a highly politicized process that empowers a few unelected bureaucrats to shape the future of entire markets.

    Almost a year ago, the cable company Charter made a deal to purchase another cable company, Bright House Networks. Then, after the FCC decided to block another cable deal—Comcast’s attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC)—Charter announced that it...

  • The One Year Anniversary of Net Neutrality

    February 26, 2016

    In the pen and phone era, one of the many examples of the descent into arbitrary lawmaking influencing an entire sector of the economy is the Federal Communications Commission’s order on net neutrality. Net neutrality is the FCC’s broad push to control both the infrastructure and content of tomorrow’s Internet. Today is the net neutrality order’s first anniversary, being “celebrated” by some senators with a just-introduced bill to repeal it called the Restoring Internet Freedom Act that, alas, is not the first attempt.  

    With net neutrality, the government would regulate the internet by using unashamedly authoritarian “advisory opinions”—not normal laws...

  • Net Neutrality Questions FCC Commissioners Need to Answer

    November 16, 2015

    In a House Energy & Commerce Committee oversight hearing on Tuesday, November 17, all five Federal Communications Commissioners will testify. Net neutrality, the FCC’s broad push to control both the infrastructure ...
  • What Will a Chaffetz Speakership Mean for Internet Freedom?

    October 8, 2015

    With House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) gaffe regarding the Benghazi investigation, the race to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appears much more open. Days later, Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz seized the opportunity to announce his own bid for the Speaker’s gavel. The second-term congressman considers himself one of the more tech-savvy members of Congress, but how might a Chaffetz Speakership affect Internet freedom?

  • FCC Ignores Rule of Law in Attempt to Fine AT&T for Throttling Wireless Users

    June 17, 2015

    Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on a three-to-two vote, found that AT&T violated federal regulations by failing to disclose that it was throttling certain wireless customers on an “unlimited” data plan. The FCC claims AT&T owes a $100 million fine. This announcement follows a lawsuit filed in October 2014 by another federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), arguing that AT&T violated federal consumer protection law by throttling its unlimited data plan customers. AT&T has pledged to take both agencies to court to defend itself against these allegations.

    By way of background, for many years, AT&T and many other wireless providers offered data plans—used for Internet browsing, email, video, and so forth—on an all-you-can eat, unlimited...

  • CEI Statements on the Failed Comcast-Time Warner Merger

    April 27, 2015

    CEI responded to the news that the Comcast-Time Warner merger failed. You can read more analysis from CEI's Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews here.

    "The deck was stacked against this deal from the beginning: Comcast and Time Warner Cable had to seek permission to merge from not only the Department of Justice, but also the Federal Communications Commission. While the DOJ must win in court before it can block an acquisition, the FCC has unilateral power to send a transaction into regulatory limbo for years before the merging parties get a chance to be heard by an independent federal judge. This process turns the rule of law on its head, and only Congress can fix it." 

    -- Ryan Radia, Associate Director of Technology Studies

    ...
  • Net Neutrality Vote Shows Congress Must Rein In and Replace the FCC

    February 26, 2015

    The separation of powers doctrine demands that Congress not tolerate unelected federal agencies going it alone and making binding law. 

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on a party line vote, has elected to impose so-called net neutrality regulation via a reclassification of the formerly lightly regulated Internet under Title II of the Communications Act. 

    Somehow, we suddenly need government force to protect the freedom we’ve known online, with a 332-page set of rules no one outside the agency has seen. 

    Thursday's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutrality conceit should trigger the Congress’ replacement of this rogue agency with something that recognize  boundaries, something attuned to the future and reality. 

    Airwave scarcity and public interest concerns are the causes that long presumably justified telecommunications...

  • Premature Capitulation?

    February 3, 2015

    Over the decades I’ve spent in this Heart of Darkness (a.k.a., the bowels of American politics), I’ve learned two lessons that have encouraged the steady politicization of the American economy:

    • When the right time comes, I’ll take a principled stand (sadly, too often, once you’re no longer in office); and
    • Of course, we know the “right” answer is often to liberalize current rules, but that would be politically naïve, so our goal should be to avert even worse rules (but, of course, sacrificing principle rarely assuages those favoring more government control).

    And both lessons seem to have been forgotten in the Republican rush to avert the threatened action by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to transform the Internet into a federally regulated utility. Senator Thune, Representative Upton, and Representative Walden have proposed a “...

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