Tales of the Sausage Factory

DC Gives Hollywood A Little Holiday Pick Me Up To Show They Care — With A Surprise SOC Ending.

The Copyright Mafia have certainly been feeling needy recently. Maybe it’s all that talk about how wonderful broadband access is — with all the awful piracy it creates — clouding out how movies made record breaking profits this year. Maybe it’s because the London Times linked to studies that show that musicians (but not labels) do better in a world of file sharing. Maybe it’s just the sadness of winter time and the end of a decade in which PK managed to hold off nearly all the awful legislation the Copyright Mafia proposed. But whatever it is, Hollywood has been saying to it’s friends in DC “hold me,” and their DC friends have been ready to oblige.

But what caught my attention was not just the usual round of festivities by Democrats to reassure Hollywood before an election year that “we love you like no other, don’t pay that foolish broadband stuff no mind.” No, it was the surprise statement by Professor Chris Yoo that if the FCC gave Hollywood a waiver so it could shut off your television’s analog outputs (what we call in this biz Selectable Output Control or SOC), it would help stop live sports piracy?

Funny, whenever we say to the folks at the FCC (or anywhere else) that Hollywood wants to control analog outputs generally and that after they get a “narrow waiver” for releasing movies to VoD earlier than they do on DVD, they will come after live sports events, the MPAA does that eye-rolling thing where ya know, whacky info commies and their crazy conspiracy theories about how big bad Hollywood wants to control everything and the FCC staff get those fixed smiles on their faces that anyone who has ever dealt with teenagers will recognize as the “I’m stuck sitting here pretending to listen until you go” look.

So to have Yoo come out and — apparently unprompted and after a hearing that had nothing whatsoever to do with SOC — come out and say “yeah, the FCC ought to waive SOC rules for live sporting events, because everyone knows analog outputs are just STRAWS OF PIRACY SUCKING THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE CONTENT INDUSTRY INTO THE GREEDY CRIMINAL MORASS THAT IS TEH INTERWEBZ” kinda grabbed my attention. As I always tell my critics — if I’m delusional, it seems to be a functional and prescient sort of delusion.

More below . . .

Read More »

Posted in Fighting the IP Mafia, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

3 p.m., FCC approves another item. Crowd Thins, But Reporters and Hardcore Policy Wonks and White Space Folks Hang On.

O.K., now coming up on 3 p.m. on the meeting that should have started at 11 a.m. The FCC has announced that the Commissioners voted another relatively non-controversial item on circulation, the grant of the Verizon C Block licenses.

As some folks may recall, Google filed a Petition with the FCC after the 700 MHz auction requesting that they put some teeth into the C Block conditions and provide further clarity on how they can enforce the conditions against Verizon if it plays games. It is expected that the item basically says “yes, we mean it,” but not give any further details. We’ll have to wait for when they publish the Order to find out.

Meanwhile, those of us desperate for a white spaces vote continue to sweat it out and hope the Order doesn’t get derailed. Those opposed, unsurprisingly, are now hoping for the opposite.

NEWSFLASH: According to FCC staff, while Commissioner Godot will not vote today, he will surely vote tomorrow!

AAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Vote this thing!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Worsht Ex Parte Ever: I Gloat Over Latest D.C. Cir. Case on a Procedural Point

One of the constant irritants for me and others trying to follow what happens at the FCC is the problem of “the too brief ex parte.” Under the Commission’s rules (47 C.F.R. 1.1200, et seq), when a party meets with FCC staff on an open proceeding, the party is supposed to submit into the record a written statement providing a summary of the conversation. This is called a “notice of oral ex parte presentation” in FCC-speak, but we usually shorten this to just ex parte. By rule, the ex parte should provide a reasonable explanation of what took place so that a reader can get a sense of the argument made (although you can refer back to a previous filing to avoid repetition). In practice, however, you usually get nonsense like this piece of garbage from Alltel which wins the Comic Book Guy Award for “Worsht Ex Parte Ever.”

So it was with a considerable amount of schadenfreude that I saw the D.C. Circuit whomp Sprint/Nextel for producing crappy ex parte‘s that failed to provide a record of their no doubt numerous detailed conversations with Commission staff. This failure to leave a record resulted in dismissal of Sprint’s case and may cost it many billions of dollars.

More gloating below . . . .

Read More »

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Nothing Like Biting Industry On The Ass To Get Republicans Hot For Process

OK, color me cynical, but I find this recent bipartisan interest in the fairness of FCC processes a source of some considerable eye rolling on my part. Not because the issue isn’t timely, important, etc., etc. But because it wasn’t until the cable industry started bleating their little heads off that this amazing bipartisan consensus suddenly emerged.

For some background here, I wrote my first major paper on how badly the FCC processes suck rocks back in 2003. I and my employer, Media Access Project, have complained about the crappy way the FCC behaves going back to when the Democrats ran the show and the Media Bureau routinely issued “letter opinions” and developed “street law” that eventually became binding agency precedent. The whole business of how stations could circumvent the ownership limits by engaging in local marketing agreements (LMAs) and joint sales agreements (JSAs) which sold everything but the actual license was bitterly fought by MAP and goes back to the Bush I administration. And yes, I fully agree with the recent GAO Report about how FCC processes favor industry over the public because the long-standing relationships between FCC staff (including career staff well below the Commissioner level) and industry become back channels for critical information and influence.

But it sticks in my craw no end to see Republicans come alive to this issue for the first time because it bit the cable industry on the rear end instead of sticking it to the public interest community.

Nor am I overly thrilled with my friends and colleagues in the movement who seem to believe that Martin invented this mess. Certainly Martin has used every procedural device and negotiating tactic available to him. He is, as I have observed on more than one occasion, a hard-ball player. And his hrdball negotiating tactics — a huge list of agenda items, last minute negotiations, everything Adelstein complained about in his concurrence at te last meeting — have clearly generated ill-will and suspicion among his fellow Commissioners.

But when I think about all the crap that Powell pulled as Chairman with nary an eyebrow raised and compare it to the conduct of this FCC, I could just weep. Martin met with us in the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC) on multiple occasions when Senate Democrats wouldn’t even invite us to testify. And I still remember back in 2003 during the Comcast acquisition of AT&T Broadband that it was Martin who insisted that Powell issue a written denial of our motion to get access to certain agreements so that we would have a basis for appeal.

So while I normally am in full agreement with my friends at Free Press, I must vehemently dissent from their apparent insistence that Martin has debased the FCC’s processes to new depths. Martin’s FCC is such an improvement over the pro-industry/anti-public interest/don’t bother us because we pre-decided it cesspit that was the Powell FCC that these allegations can arise only because Free Press did not exist when Powell was running the first dereg show. As George Will noted, Michael Powell met a total of twice with public interest groups (once with my boss, Andy Schwartzman, and once with Consumers Union’s Gene Kimmelman) and conducted exactly one public hearing outside of DC before issuing his ownership order — in far off Richmond Virginia.

And as for the recent Tribune merger — please! I certainly disagreed with the result, but Martin has nothing on Powell’s former Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree. Ferree twisted FCC law and process like a pretzel to give Tribune a waiver extension it didn’t deserve. This is the same Ken Ferree, btw, who informed the public interest community that the FCC would hold no public hearings on media ownership because the FCC didn’t need “foot stomping” to make a decision. Indeed, the list of the sins of Ken Ferree — whose arrogant disregard for process remains unsurpassed in the annals of the FCC — could fill several more pages of blog postings.

And while all this crap was going on, we had nary a peep from the Republicans in Congress. But as soon as Martin made it clear he intended to actually enforce the existing law against the cable industry, SUDDENLY Congressional Republicans woke up to due process issues and beagn to fret about “abuses of power” and Martin being “out of control.”

I can forgive my colleagues in the movement who weren’t around the first time. And I understand the Congressional Democrats, who were either out of power when Powell was running the show or simply not yet arrived on the scene. Certainly Markey and other Congressional Democrats were equally loud in their complaints about process when Powell sprang a spanking new “diversity index” on the public with no warning as they have been n recent weeks against Martin — but being in the minority their protests amounted to little. But when I hear Republicans like Barton and Upton, who positively applauded sticking it to the public time and again, rush to the defense of the poor beleaguered cable industry on process grounds, I have to say something. Even for the self-serving cynicism and hypocrisy that passes for principles in the Republican party these days, this is just too much.

I certainly hope the concerns of Mr. Boehner, Mr. Sunnunnu, and the other Republicans that have suddenly become obsessed with process persist after their master in the cable industry get what they want.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC loses a good one

Lest you think I only speak ill of FCC staff, I was quite sorry to see on Mike Marcus’ Spectrumtalk blog that Alan Scrime, Chief of the Policy and Rules Division of the Office of Engineering and Technology, is leaving the FCC to take a job with the Army close to his home in New Jersey.

In the time I’ve been working on unlicensed spectrum issues (which OET handles), Alan has always been a pleasure to work with. A smart fellow who has been just as interested in what the non-commercial folks are doing as he has been with the established players or well-funded start ups, Alan has also displayed considerable patience and willingness to explain things to non-technical folks such as myself.

Sorry to see Alan go, and wishing him luck with the Army.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Adelphia Transaction Advances

Lost in the hub-bub of yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the proposed division of Adelphia between Comcast and Time Warner and accompanying system swaps. What surprises me is not so much the result (getting conditions in this administration, particularly on a cable merger, was always a long-shot) but the timing. The FCC is still chewing over the data request it made in December, and the Adelphia Bankruptcy proceeding has been rescheduled for mid-March. It smacks annoyingly of a political favor done for a stalwart Republican (did we mention Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, is a big Bush supporter and fundraiser?) than the careful reasoning of the anti-trust agency charged with protecting the public. But that’s probably just my imagination post-State of the Union grumpiness combined with discovering how many big companies are spying on us for the government.

My analysis below . . .

Read More »

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

TotSF: The Wireless Circle Jerk

Sascha Meinrath has this blog posting on how Motorola’s acquisition of MeshNetworks is a prime example of corporate welfare gone wild. Of course, in D.C., we call this “the circle of life”. Taxpayers, however, may see it as the Circle of Jerk.

It is unclear to me if Motorola, one of the fiercest foes of expanding unlicensed access, is simply trying to take out a competitor or hedge a bet. I do not expect their filings to change — in fact,I expect them to leverage MeshNetworks as a means of undermining manufacturing comments from folks like Tropos. OTOH, FCC staff are not stupid, and understand how industry filings work.

Stay tuned . . .

Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed
  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register