John Eggerton

GOP: President Obama is Biggest Threat to Internet Survival

Forget cybercriminals and rogue states: President Barack Obama is the biggest threat to a free and open Internet, at least according to the platform approved at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland (OH).

“The survival of the Internet as we know it is at risk,” the platform says in its "Protecting Internet Freedom" plank. “Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government.” President Obama pushed for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify Internet access as a Title II common-carrier service subject to some new regulations, which it did. It was a move Congressional Republicans fought and blamed on what they saw as the president’s intervention. They are also not happy with the Administration’s decision to move oversight of Internet domain names to a multistakeholder model.

NCTA, Others Seek More Time for Business Data Services Comment

Cable and telecommunication Internet service providers have joined to ask the Federal Communications Commission for more time to respond to the commission's proposal to remake the regulatory framework for business data (formerly "special access") services. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, USTelecom, and ITTA – The Voice of Mid-Size Communications Companies joined in the motion to extend the July 26 reply comment deadline by three weeks.

They said that "brief" extension of time was warranted given a variety of factors including 1) the "voluminous" initial comments, the fact that it is a "complicated and extremely consequential" rulemaking; 2) that the FCC is high on a Verizon/INCOMPAS compromise proposal that could include their members; 3) the FCC's release, on the same day the initial comments were due, the peer reviews of the report on the business data services market that the FCC used in coming up with its proposed remake. NCTA et al. said the report was "fundamental to the Commission’s proposed regulations, and a thorough review of these peer reviews and staff response is essential." They also cite delays in getting access to 2013 data that is the basis for much of the FCC's analysis.

FTC Reform Bill Approved in House Commerce Committee

On 30-20 vote, the House Commerce Committee approve an FTC reform bill that would clarify what conduct the Federal Trade Commission can cite for unfairness under its authority to go after unfair and deceptive practices and how it determines that to be the case. The Judiciary Committee is also considering the bill. Democrats argue it is a way to weaken, if not gut, consumer protections.

Rep Clarke: Minorities Need National Media Voice

Rep Yvette Clarke (D-NY) says it is time for minorities to be able to frame their own stories rather than have them filtered through a media that does not reflect them in front of or behind the camera. Rep Clarke was speaking at the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council's 14th annual Access to Capital and Telecom Policy Conference. "We don't have the voice of our own media at the national level to provide perspective," she said, talking about the reporting on the police shootings of unarmed black men. She said that social media has provided one way of not having to view the stories "through the lens of others." But she also said it should not be the case that they have to "tweet it out" in order to "plead our case." That is why there needs to be diverse media owned and operated by people "who look just like us." "We can't go to those who have marginalized it for so long to present our story. It just won't work." Rep Clarke in May formed the Multicultural Media Caucus to promote greater representation of minorities in the media.

Also weighing in at the conference was Rep Tony Cardenas (D-CA), who said communications was the people’s space, not corporate America’s, adding that those corporations should reflect the diversity of their audiences but don’t. He said Congress’ job was to hold up a mirror to that fact.

Democratic Reps Attempt to Boost FTC Privacy Authority

The House Commerce Committee has defeated two amendments from Democratic Reps to a reform bill that would have given the Federal Trade Commission authority to regulate broadband Internet service provider consumer privacy and more authority to regulate edge provider privacy. That came in a full committee mark-up July 14 on the FTC Process and Transparency Reform Act of 2016 (HR 5510), that would clarify what conduct the Federal Trade Commission can cite for unfairness under its authority to go after unfair and deceptive practices and how it determines that to be the case. The Judiciary Committee is also considering the FTC reform bill.

One amendment would have given the FTC authority to create rules that protect consumer privacy on websites. The Democratic Reps on the committee said that if the Republican Reps want a level playing field in broadband privacy, rather than prevent the Federal Communications Commission from adopting new rules on broadband privacy, a better answer is give the FTC more FCC-like rulemaking authority. Republican Reps countered that was a slippery slope, that the FTC was an enforcement agency, not a rulemaking agency. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 27 to 17. A second amendment would have eliminated the common carrier exemption that required the FCC to take over broadband privacy oversight when it reclassified ISPs as common carriers. Democratic Reps argued that would be an elegant solution to boosting the FTC's ability to regulate privacy. Republican Reps said that the FCC would not give up its abusive, mission creep authority just because the FTC also got oversight. That amendment was defeated by a voice vote.

SHLB Unveils Action Plan for Next Gen High-Speed Broadband

The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition has come up with an "action plan" for getting those institutions connected to next-generation high-speed broadband, and making that a national priority. In “Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Broadband Action Plan," the coalition look to highlight gaps in connectivity and make it clear just how important broadband access is. It is also part of a larger effort to make gigabit speeds for anchor institutions the table stakes of connectivity.

According to SHLB, the key takeaways from all the papers are the need for sharing -- "such as aggregation and public-private partnerships that eliminate silos and reduce costs"; competition -- "promoting competition to incentivize growth and bring more affordable options"; and funding -- "funding strategies that help communities meet up-front build-out and deployment costs, and ongoing monthly fees."

Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council President: Build Dialogue Around Digital Issues

Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council president Kim Keenan called on attendees at the 14th annual Access to Capital and Telecom Policy Conference July 13 to help make important DC telecommunication issues understandable to the wider public they are affecting. In opening remarks for a Federal Communications Commission luncheon, Keenan said she was deeply concerned about the spectrum auction and that, in terms of minority ownership, the media landscape following that auction could look like it did "100 years ago."

The two-day MMTC conference includes a panel session on the impact of the auction on diversity. One concern is that the auction will reduce the number of channels -- including multicast channels -- owned by or programmed for minorities, given that the FCC is incentivizing broadcasters to give up spectrum. Keenan said that while policymakers tend to have "wonky conversations with ourselves" about those issues, when she talks to groups outside Washington about issues like set-top boxes or network neutrality, their eyes "glaze over." She suggested it is important to open those eyes to the digital future and called on her audience to help make those issues understandable and encourage dialogue. "If we have a digital future that does not connect everyone, we don't have a digital future," she said, adding, "We don’t want it to be easier to be stopped by police than to get access to capital by people of color."

Survey: European Union Needs Trade Deal Privacy Regime

Digital rights and privacy groups are launching a campaign to pressure trade deal negotiators to look at privacy and data protection differently. The vanguard of that effort is a new report released July 13 and commissioned by the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, European Digital Rights, and the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD). The EU and US just launched a new cross-border data flow privacy shield regime, which the groups have issues with. The report says the EU undermines personal data and privacy rights in trade agreements, citing the EU/US TTIP trade deal, for one. The study says the EU should:

  • Keep rules on privacy and data protection out of trade agreements, by means of a legally-binding exclusion clause. This is also recommended by the European Parliament.
  • Include an exception that allows any signatories to regulate cross-border data transfers. This should apply to any sector that deals with the processing and transfer of personal data, such as financial services, within a trade agreement.
  • Insert a clause into trade agreements that prevents an EU measure from becoming automatically invalid or inapplicable.
  • Prevent clauses in trade agreements which would oblige the EU to submit forthcoming rules on privacy and data protection to trade ‘tests’ in order to see if they are more burdensome than necessary.
  • Treat all trade partners the same way when granting ‘adequacy status’ for data transfer purposes to prevent the EU from being vulnerable to potential challenge under trade rules.
  • Require the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) to issue an opinion on the texts of free trade agreements.

Roku to Wheeler: HTML5 Should Not Be De Facto Navigation Standard

Video streaming device maker Roku has issues with the Federal Communications Commission's set-top box unlocking plan, but it also has issues with the cable industry's box-ditching, apps-based plan. In meetings with top aides to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler about the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's app-based proposal, Roku said that "while Roku continues to believe that the Commission’s current set-top box rulemaking efforts could be counterproductive," it is concerned that the cable alternative would create HTML5 as the de facto video distribution standard.

"Such an approach would be ill-advised given that consumers have clearly demonstrated their preference of an array of devices with diverse user experiences," they said. FCC staffers vetting the pay-TV proposal have suggested that HTML5 "may be an appropriate platform for app developers to provide access to content." But Roku has little good to say about it, at least as a potential standard: "HTML5 is a bulky and expensive architecture that would require third-party device manufacturers to include additional processing power and memory to support it, even in their lowest-priced device."

Can We Talk?

[Commentary] The growing racial tensions over officer-involved shootings that have racked the country in recent days, from Dallas (TX) to Minneapolis(MN) to Baton Rouge (LA), are not going to be defused without a concerted effort on the part of everyone involved, which is everyone in this country. As President Barack Obama has said, there is a problem that needs addressing. Broadcasters remain the "go to" medium for local news and public service in their communities and can be a part of the solution -- or at least part of figuring out what the solution is. They should join with cable news outlets to televise -- and roadblock if necessary -- a town hall meeting or meetings between communities and the police sworn to protect and serve.