Author Archives: Larry Spiwak

Second Circuit Debunks FCC’s Set-Top Box Arguments

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Last February, the FCC launched yet another attempt to excise itself from (in the immortal words of former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell) the “Valley of Unattained Goals” of Section 629.  To justify its aggressive regulatory intervention, the Commission argued that (1) there is a separate market for set-top boxes over which MVPDs allegedly exercise market power; and, as such, (2) the rates consumers pay to rent set-top boxes, to put it colloquially, are “too damn high.” While such arguments make for great populist fodder, the problem is that the Commission’s foundational arguments underlying their set-top box proposal simply are not Continue Reading »

The Investment Effects of the FCC’s New Asymmetrical Privacy Regime…

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Last September, I participated in a conference sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation entitled “The Internet of Everything: Data, Networks and Opportunities.”  As part of my presentation, I discussed an essay I co-authored with Phoenix Center Chief Economist Dr. George Ford entitled Information, Investment and the Internet of Everything.  In this essay, George and I pointed out that as a consequence of the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) decision in March 2015 to reclassify broadband Internet access as a Title II common carrier “telecommunications” service in its controversial Open Internet Order, all Broadband Service Providers (“BSPs”)—whether wireline, cable or Continue Reading »

Tom Wheeler’s Recent Braggadocio…

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Last month, the Phoenix Center released a paper entitled Eroding the Rule of Law:  Regulation as Cooperative Bargaining at the FCC.  Our paper reveals how the FCC exploits its power to grant or deny regulatory relief in exchange for political concessions from the entities it regulates.  We describe such action as “issue bundling.”  As our paper explains, issue bundling occurs when the regulator and the regulated “make a deal” to combine a variety of unrelated issues in exchange for regulatory relief.  Needless to say, this rise in issue bundling raises troubling concerns about the nature of the modern regulatory state.  Among Continue Reading »

2014 Year in Review…

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2014 provided fertile soil for those interested in policy research. So with New Years rapidly approaching, I want to uphold tradition and use our last blog post of the year to highlight what we at the Phoenix Center thought to be the most interesting policy issues of 2014 and to provide some select examples of where we believed we added constructively to the debate. Spectrum Availability and Allocation While spectrum policy is always complex, the debate again boiled down to the fundamental questions: how do we free up more spectrum; and once we do, how do we allocate it? For Continue Reading »

The Problems With Henry Waxman’s “Hybrid” Legal Theory…

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Last week, Representative Henry Waxman—the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee—wrote a letter to Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler where he proposed a new and quite peculiar “hybrid” legal theory to support aggressive new Open Internet Rules.  Under Mr. Waxman’s three-step theory, the FCC would first reclassify broadband Internet access as a Title II common carrier telecommunications service.  Next, Mr. Waxman would have the Commission use its authority under Section 10 to forbear from nearly all of Title II—including even Section 201 (requiring “just and reasonable” rates) and Section 202 (prohibiting “unreasonable discrimination”). Finally, having dispensed Continue Reading »

The FCC Can’t Use Section 706 to Preempt State Laws Prohibiting Municipal Broadband…

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Ten years ago, the United States Supreme Court held in Nixon v. Missouri Municipal League that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) may not use its authority under Section 253 of the Communications Act to preempt state laws which restrict or prohibit municipal broadband deployment.  Despite this defeat, proponents of municipal broadband have spent the last decade trying to find an alternative legal theory and, with the D.C. Circuit’s recent ruling in Verizon v. FCC, believe they now may have finally found one—namely, the FCC’s new-found authority in Section 706(a) of the Communications Act.  Section 706(a) states that the agency may Continue Reading »

A Quick Primer on the FCC’s “Public Interest” Merger Review Authority…

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As we all know by now, Comcast announced that it would be acquiring Time Warner in a deal worth about $45.2 billion.  Given the high profile of this acquisition, I thought I would use this opportunity to highlight once again the ample case law on the bounds of the Federal Communications Commission’s “public interest” merger review authority.  (For a full exegesis, please see my law review Separating Politics from Policy in FCC Merger Reviews: A Basic Legal Primer of The “Public Interest” Standard, 18 CommLaw Conspectus 329 (2010) which is available on the Phoenix Center’s webpage here.) First, FCC merger Continue Reading »

Finally Moving from Words to Action on the IP Transition…

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For over a year, momentum has been building for the Federal Communications Commission to establish a series of wire center trials to test exactly how an all-IP world might work.  To FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s credit, last January the agency issued a formal IP Transition Trial Order outlining exactly what it wants to see in these trials, and yesterday AT&T took up the challenge by filing the inaugural test proposal.  Overall, I was impressed with the IP Transition Trial Order—it was written with a professionalism that has largely been absent from the Commission in recent years.  Like most FCC orders, Continue Reading »

NARUC Recap: Federalist Implications of Verizon v. FCC…

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Shortly after the Federal Communications Commission issued its Open Internet Order, I authored a short Perspective where I highlighted the fact that the FCC’s use of Section 706 as an independent source of authority “has introduced, perhaps inadvertently, significant questions of federalism that need to be considered.”  My observation was simple:  because Section 706 applies equally to both the FCC and to “each State Commission with regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunications services”, if the Commission can exert its jurisdiction over broadband Internet services (the authority to do so now confirmed by the D.C. Circuit in Verizon v. FCC) under Section 706, Continue Reading »

A Troubling New Legal Standard for Section 706…

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Last week, the D.C. Circuit in Verizon v. FCC issued its much-anticipated ruling on the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order.  In this decision, the court found that because the FCC had determined that broadband is not being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis to all Americans, Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act vests the agency “with affirmative authority to enact measures encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure” and, by extension, the power “to promulgate rules governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic.” (Slip Op. at 4.)  While the court remanded both the “no blocking” and “non-discrimination” portions Continue Reading »