Tales of the Sausage Factory

What We Learn From the VZ-Frontier Deal

Verizon is selling 5 million access lines to Frontier. I expect the deal will go through — after all, a dominant carrier is getting smaller, there is no place where VZ and Frontier compete, etc., etc. What makes the deal interesting is what it tells us about the problem of relying on ILEC/Cable competition to drive broadband. Briefly, (a) we will be perpetually without fiber in a lot of places if we are going to wait for cable and ILECs to meet our needs; and (b) the real problem for is not just the high cost of deployment, but the need to show high rates of return to keep Wall St. happy. It is this latter that will keep telecom policy a very unhappy and complicated place unless we get out of our usual silos and start thinking about some holistic solutions.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Liveblogging the Fun fun Fun at FCC at 700 Mhz Mtg

So here I am, watching all the motion in the backfield as the Commissioners trickle in following this morning’s delay.

For those who missed it, the meeting was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Then got switched to 12:30 p.m. (Frankly, I didn’t mind, as I had not gotten a seat at 10 a.m. Real full house here today). When I got back at 12:30, I found Fred Campbell (chief of the wireless bureau) and some of the wireless staff already in the hearing room. A hopeful sign! Still, it has taken an additional hour to pull everyone together. Martin came in at about 1:10 or so, with the rest trickling in later. During the last half hour, I could see various high-ranking staff dealing with the last minute details from whatever change got made this morning.

We’ve now started with three witnesses to describe the need for various features of the Order. We have two public safety guys and Jason Devitt — CEO of Skydeck and supporter of both wholesale open access and device open access.

Having outside witnesses at an open Commission meeting called for the purposes of voting on an agenda item is highly unusual. Martin has done this on occassion before for very significant and potentially controversial items (the ones that come to mind are the meeting where they voted to require VOIP providers to provide 911 services, the Katrina follow up, and the 2006 cable competition inquiry (which took place in Keller, TX).

So what’s going on here? More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Makes Cable Companies Obey Law! Activist Lawyer Faints In shock!

Oh my stars! After endless years of delay, the FCC has has denied the various waiver requests from Comcast and the National Cable Telecommunications Association to delay the implementation of the set-top box interoperability. My stars! The cable industry will actually be required to comply with a law passed in 1996! I am positively weak from shock. Now if only we could get the FCC to resolve the horizontal cable ownership that’s been pending since 1992.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Network Neutrality In Last Throes! Nationally Franchised Bells to Be Greeted As Liberators!

The signs of increasing desperation in the war of words over the Stevens Bill reached a new low. As reported by Matt Stoller Stevens has released the results of this push poll purporting to show that the majority of voters are interested in cable, not network neutrality, and would prefer to get the Bell video franchising bill passed without net neutrality provisions attached.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Stevens Bill Score Card Pre-Mark Up

And what a mark up it will be! Senators have proposed hundreds of amendments (more than 250 at one point, but now down to something over a hundred as deals get done). Meanwhile, the Stevens Bill itself has undergone significant rewrite. You can find the final pre-mark up draft at Jim Baller’s site here. For comparison, you can read about the Democratic substitute here (and my brief summary of same here).

Below, a brief score card on some issues I singled out previously: Opening broadcast white spaces (still in, but facing a “poison pill” amendment from DeMint (R-SC)), program access (dropped by Stevens); Broadcast flag (sadly alive and well); Munibroadband (much improved, thanks in no small part to Jim Baller and the coalition of tech folks, muni orgs, and public interest folks put together by Jim Kohlenberger); and, of course, net neutrality (brought up to COPE levels, with some flavoring added to try to buy off the Christian conservatives).

Most importantly, the telcos have inserted a very nasty joker in the deck, known as “Section 1004.” This Section is designed to rig any post-legislation appeal by giving the D.C. Circuit exclusive jurisdiction over all things FCC. This would be a catastrophe not merely for network neutrality, but for media ownership and just about any other provision of law (and therefore merits a post of its own).

More details below . . . .

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