Developments in telecommunications policy being made in the legal system.
In an attempt to win a government lawsuit over its throttling of unlimited data plans, AT&T will appeal a ruling to the Supreme Court. The Federal Trade Commission sued AT&T in October 2014 in US District Court in Northern California, alleging that AT&T promised unlimited data to wireless customers and then throttled their speeds by as much as 90 percent. In response, AT&T argues that the FTC has no jurisdiction over any aspect of AT&T's business because the FTC lacks authority to regulate common carriers.
In a post-trial brief, AT&T and Time Warner said the government "came nowhere close" to proving the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger violates antitrust laws. The companies said that the government's case was built on "non-probative competitor complaints, irrelevant slide shows," and a theoretical model of harm that collapsed under the weight of "real-world" evidence, then disintegrated upon first contact with real-world events, testimony, and data." The Justice Department had asserted that without spinoffs of Turner programming networks, the merger would mean substantially less comp
Facebook has failed in a last-ditch attempt to delay a major privacy case’s journey to Europe’s top court. The case in question was brought about by Facebook’s arch-nemesis, the Austrian law student Max Schrems, who has already succeeded in sinking the Safe Harbor agreement that gave U.S. firms a simple way to import the data of people from the European Union. As before, he is concerned that US intelligence programs break Europeans’ privacy rights.
The US Supreme Court will use a privacy case involving Google to consider making it harder for companies to settle class-action lawsuits without providing direct compensation to those affected. The justices agreed to hear arguments from two people who object to the Alphabet Inc. unit’s $8.5 million settlement of claims that it improperly disclosed users’ internet search terms to the owners of outside websites. The case centers on what critics say is an increasingly common litigation tactic, used by Facebook as well as Google.
The Justice Department made a final pitch against AT&T's $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner, demanding in federal court that the deal be blocked or that AT&T should be permitted only to buy a portion of the media and entertainment giant. Addressing a packed courtroom that included the chief executives of both companies, Justice attorney Craig Conrath cited economic analyses, industry witnesses and AT&T's own statements to support the government's case opposing the tie-up.
[Commentary] More than four months after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal its network neutrality rules, the rules adopted in 2015 are technically still on the books. And we still do not know when the repeal will take effect. The situation is “highly unusual” according to telecommunications policy expert Harold Feld. The question is, why is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dragging his feet now when he’s so close to his goal?
Even if a federal judge sides with AT&T in its fight to take over Time Warner for $85 billion, victory won’t have come cheap. AT&T spent $1.1 billion in 2017 on debt interest and fees tied to the proposed merger, plus $214 million on related integration costs. The first quarter added another $67 million of integration costs. Time Warner said it spent $279 million on merger costs in 2017 and another $146 million through March.
An advocacy group is suing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for records on Facebook’s privacy practices, arguing that there’s a “clear public interest” in learning details about the social media giant’s policies following revelations of a data scandal. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to push for the unredacted release of biennial privacy assessments that Facebook agreed to submit under a 2011 consent agreement with the FTC.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit April 20 is hearing oral argument in the Free Press v. Federal Communications Commission challenge to the FCC's reinstatement of the UHF discount. A politically divided FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai voted back in April 2017 to reverse the previous Democratic majority's decision to eliminate the discount. That discount meant TV station group owners only had to count half of the audience to their UHF stations towards the 39% national audience reach cap.
Time Warner chief executive Jeff Bewkes denied that AT&T will raise the price of TV channels such as CNN and TBS as a result of the two companies' $85 billion merger, calling the Justice Department's landmark case to block the deal "ridiculous." "I think it's ridiculous," he said.