Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Comedy of Comcast v. FCC Part I — What Did The Court Actually Do?

It’s been rather busy the last few weeks. Between my unfairly holding Sprint responsible for its own screw ups, shamelessly cheering on the documentation of our national broadband drought by Our Great Google Overlords, and generally crushing all who dare oppose me, it’s been hard to find time to blog about stuff. So naturally, while I was away for the last day of Passover, the DC Circuit issued its long awaited decision in the Comcast/BitTorrent case, Comcast v. FCC.

Needless to say, the opinion was greeted with the total hysteria that has become the hallmark of the network neutrality debate — with terms like “Nuclear Option,” “World War III,” and “spanking.” Opponents of FCC jurisdiction rejoiced, supporters of network neutrality lamented, and a few shrewd observers noted that the actual outcomes could prove far worse for Comcast and the incumbents than if Comcast had lost (as I noted after oral argument last January).

My co-counsel, Marvin Ammori, has written up his retrospective here. Understandably, he’s rather bummed. Despite this whole thing being my idea in the first place, however, I’m actually rather pleased and amused with how this whole thing is turning out. Sure, I would much rather have won. But as the history of the last 2+ years of this unfolds, the tale of how Comcast managed to bluff, badger, and bungle itself into a position where it has not only guaranteed harsher condition on its merger with NBC-Universal, but revived the possibility of classifying broadband access as a Title II telecom service for the first time in 10 years, is the stuff of high farce. And while I wish I could claim credit for this outcome, the real “heroes” here are Brian Roberts (head of Comcast) followed closely by AT&T, NCTA and the Republican party.

To try to keep this manageable, I’ll divide this into two posts. Below, I will try to set forth what the court actually said and the immediate legal implications, without worrying too much about the overall policy. While I can hardly claim to be an impartial observer, I’ll do my best to identify my editorial comments as such and note where reasonable minds can differ. In Part II, I shall shamelessly indulge myself with my own eyewitness to history and why I think the Comedy of Comcast v. FCC deserves its special place in the realm of farce — although we have by no means reached a certain conclusion.

More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Congratulations to Gene Kimmelman, and to the American People.

I haven’t been posting much and will continue to be busy for the next while, owing to Passover and bunch of other things. But I had to give a brief post of congratulations to Gene Kimmelman on his appointment to the Department of Justice as Chief Counsel for Competition Policy and Intergovernmental Relations. Gene has been a tireless advocate for consumer protection and pro-competitive policies as the head of Consumers Unions Washington office. His addition to the DoJ in this critical office is good news for those who want to see policies that genuinely promote competition rather than deregulation for its own sake.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

This Week I Get My Wonk On, Next Week I Am A Free Man.

Passover comes late this year. It doesn’t start until Saturday night, April 19. Getting ready for Passover is a phenomenal pain in the rear end, because it involves all sort of complicated cleaning things. So this time of year is really busy for us true believer types.

Which is why the Good Lord has made it such a plentiful season for critical hearings. This week on Tuesday morning, I will testify before the House Telecom Subcommittee at the incredibly crowded second panel on the 700 MHz Auction aftermath. Then it’s out to California to catch the FCC Hearing on Network Management (official witness list still not posted, but my name turned up in Comm Daily on the short list).

Mind you, I am extremely happy to have the opportunity to testify before the House and all that. Indeed, given how much I’ve lived these things (especially the spectrum stuff), I’d be really miffed if I didn’t get a chance to speak my piece. I just wish it could be a little, y’know, less hectic.

At least I will be able to say with conviction at my Passover celebration “Now I am a free man.”

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Last Month's FCC Network Neutrality Items

Sorry this is so late, but it’s been a busy time, what with Passover and the rush for the FCC’s upcoming 700 MHz auction. But I figure it is still worthwhile to keep folks updated on net neutrality at the FCC.

Of course, last month’s FCC meeting had a lot going on. Take a gander at the agenda for the March FCC meeting (March 22). Notice anything unusual? Yep, it’s veerrrrrryyyyy loooooonnnnnggggg. Thirteen items. So long, in fact, that Chairman Martin called an “intermission” in the middle. At one point Commissioner McDowell sheepishly admited he was still drafting his separate statement on the item to be voted, becasuse he hadn’t gotten a chance beforehand.

I wish I had time to go into detail on these things. I hope to eventually catch up and write about things like the access to inside wiring proceeding and the digital radio rules.

But for now, I will limit myself to the declaratory ruling ruling on wireless services and the Notice of Inquiry on Net Neutrality. As discussed below, the FCC majority once again proves that while they can’t deregulate fast enough, taking action to protect our right to speak freely with one another always needs “more study.”

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Why wait for the Daily Show for Fake News?

This goes back a ways. Between vacation for Passover and the net neutrality fight, this fell a bit by the wayside. But it is still an important issue.

Back on April 6, my friends over at Free Press, working with the Center for Media and Democracy, have issued a rather stunning report on how local television stations rebroadcast “video news releases” — press releases created by corporations — as real news. For example, a “news story” about a new drug treatment may, in fact, an advertisement created by the drug company and packaged to look like a news report.

Free Press subsequently hosted a “blogger briefing” call, which you can listen to here. FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstien spoke. And I attended wearing my blogger hat.

My thoughts on this most recent disclosure of how pathetic our news media has become below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Off for Passover

Tales of the Sausage Factory will be on hiatus (if that term means anything for my schedule) for the next two weeks. I will be off celebrating Passover with my family at a rural retreat in Vermont.

Stay tuned . . .

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