Tales of the Sausage Factory

Wireless Bureau Wisely Decides To Not Play Referee In 3.65 GHz Band

I have a fondness for the 3.65 GHz band for a number of reasons. In the first place, I was heavily involved in the the fight over the rules. For another, it seems to be filing an important niche in the wireless broadband ecosystem. So I was pleased when the FCC’s Wireless Bureau resisted the invitation to get involved in interference disputes in the band. OTOH, it also highlights the value of having a referee with jurisdiction in case something does go wrong.

I know I’m getting to this late, as the decision came out at the end of December, but it’s been a busy time. More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Comcast Not On Notice? They Were Told Point Blank!

It is a rather trite cliche that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But in law, where concepts such as precedent and law matter a great deal, there’s an even bigger problem: Those who do not learn from history are likely to miss the obvious.

As we all know, Comcast has invested a lot of time in arguing that they lacked notice that the FCC would enforce the principles of the policy statement via a complaint against them. “How could we possibly have known?” Comcast has asked, winning sympathetic nods from a variety of folks. “Policy statements aren’t enforceable! How can you possibly punish us for something we didn’t know we might be held accountable for, all our public statements to the contrary?”

Well, let us suppose that Comcast was told two years ago today that the FCC would entertain complaints if Comcast blocked or degraded traffic. Would that make a difference? If the FCC had said directly to Comcast: “If in the future evidence arises that any company is willfully blocking or degrading Internet content, affected parties may file a complaint with the Commission.” I would think we could all agree that this constituted “notice,” yes? Perhaps not notice of whether or not the behavior at issue constituted blocking or degrading — that is, after all, what the Commission determines in a complaint. But certainly if the FCC had told Comcast directly, to its face, no ifs and or buts, the above quoted line, I would hope we could all agree that Comcast had received reasonable notice that parties could bring complaints to the Commission, asking the Commission to determine whether the parties had behaved in an inappropriate manner.

Because — Surprise! — exactly two years ago today, that is exactly what the FCC told Comcast.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

“Updating” Media Ownership Rules — Is That Like Boiling a Frog?

It’s an old cliche that it’s easy to boil a frog. Don’t drop the frog in the boiling water — he’ll just climb out. Drop him in the pot and raise the temperature a little at a time. Before he knows it, he’ll be dead.

We have that with media consolidation and the non-stop relaxation of the rules. But instead of calling it “boiling,” proponents of consolidation call it “updating.” This attempt to describe relaxing the ownership rules to allow more consolidation as “updating,” when the evidence shows that the last round of consolidation kicked off by the 1996 deregulation has been a disaster for the industry and a disaster for democracy, came up again at yesterday’s media ownership hearings.

Powell tried to frame it as a debate about evidence v. “emotionalism.” He lost because the evidence did not justify his efforts to relax the rules. Now FCC Chairman Martin is trying to frame this as “updating” the rules, when a real “update” would mean forcing the biggest companies to sell off assets to scale back to a healthier size.

My analysis below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: It Depends What Your Definition of “Any” Is

Fans of municipal community networks were dealt a blow by a Supreme Court decision last month in Nixon v. Missouri Municipal League. The Supreme Court found that Congress needed to be more explicit in preempting the states when it said “the states shall not prevent any entity from offering telecom services” as part of the 1996 Telecom Act. Odd as it may seem to speakers of the English language, I think the Supremes may have got this one right.

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