The federal government, under presidents of both parties, has largely surrendered to monopoly power. “The ‘anti’ in ‘antitrust’ has been discarded,” as the legal scholar Tim Wu puts it in his new book, “The Curse of Bigness.” Washington allows most megamergers to proceed either straight up or with only fig-leaf changes. The government has also done nothing to prevent the emergence of dominant new technology companies that mimic the old AT&T monopoly.
The court agreed with AT&T and Comcast’s argument, saying, “It is clear that the [Metro Nashville] Charter grants NES broad, unencumbered power to manage and control the properties of the Electric Power Board. It expressly denies that power to the Mayor, the Council, and any other agency of the Metro Nashville government.”
Comcast says it’s a “recognized provider of protected speech under the First Amendment and, as such, may not be singled out for undue burdens that infringe on such rights.”
A Federal Judge has shot down an AT&T lawsuit against the city of Louisville, one of several company bids to slow down Google Fiber’s arrival to the region. AT&T sued the city back in February of last year after Louisville streamlined its utility pole attachment rules to speed up the arrival of competing broadband services to the city. Incumbent ISPs have long abused the absurdly bureaucratic pole attachment process to slow competitors, and Louisville’s “one touch make ready” reforms streamlined the process significantly.
Writer Andrew Jerell Jones also points out how Comcast-owned NBC News, CNBC and MSNBC can rarely be bothered to reveal their parent company’s lobbying on this subject, or in fact cover net neutrality in their news reporting much at all. Even purportedly “progressive” MSNBC has been frequently criticized for rarely talking about the subject.
The 2015 Order famously outlined clear net neutrality rules. But those rules only passed muster because the Order also explicitly classified broadband service as a “common carrier” service, regulated by Title II of the Communications Act, rather than an “information service” regulated by Title I of the same Act. And that classification has several corollary effects, because Title II isn’t just about net neutrality. It is also meant to curtail the anti-competitive conduct from incumbent monopolists like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. In essence, as common carriers, they are not able to use their power to control the Internet experience, and they are not able to directly harm their competitors in the broadband market.
Google Fiber’s deployment ran into snags in Austin, Texas when those poles were owned by AT&T, because the surest way to prevent competition is to just physically prevent their entry into your market. If a company the size of Google could be stifled without the law supporting them, what hope does a smaller ISP have in entering into a market where the incumbent broadband provider owns the poles that are a necessary component to deploying the network? The FCC Chairman’s plan fundamentally ignores this problem and offers no clear solution to competitors. An incumbent broadband provider that owns a lot of the poles is going to have no federal legal obligation to share that access at fair market rates if broadband is no longer a common carrier service.
See the problem? If people begin noticing that there’s no competition, that Americans are paying too much for too little, and that the entire country is suffering as a result, that’s a big problem for Big Cable.
What really matters is whether, someday, we’ll take on as a country the issue of the dismal state of high-speed internet access in America. If the Title II reclassification holds, it’s more likely that we will take that step sooner. And the carriers know that.
Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform “unauthorized” repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time.
A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software.”
For example, the elimination of Verizon would result in significantly less competition for Comcast in the Northeast United States. Currently, the Northeast is becoming one of the last places in the country Comcast hasn’t deployed usage caps, thanks in large part to Verizon’s FiOS domination of the coast. The end result of most of Hodulik’s scenarios would be higher rates and worse service for most consumers as Comcast gained a total monopoly in many east coast markets. Then again, Trump telecom advisor and former Sprint lobbyist Mark Jamison doesn’t believe telecom monopolies are real.
Former Sprint lobbyist Mark Jamison was named this week as one of two telecom consultants guiding the Trump administration’s telecom policy. Alongside telecom-tied think tanker Jeffrey Eisenach, Jamison is tasked with choosing the next FCC boss, and the direction of the new Trump FCC.
But in an October blog post, Jamison indicates he doesn’t believe that telecom monopolies are even real, while making it very clear (as Eisenach has) that the over-arching goal is to gut the FCC completely: