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 use, “in a manner consistent …
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As most of you know, the FCC will implement its first-ever incentive auction for wireless spectrum. In this auction, television broadcasters will (hopefully) offer for sale—and wireless carriers (among others) will offer to buy—spectrum in the 600 MHz band. The FCC will serve as the auctioneer. It’s all voluntary. How much spectrum gets traded depends on the prices offered by the wireless industry and the prices required by the broadcasters. Ideally, the auction will transfer a significant amount of spectrum to the mobile wireless industry and generate lots of revenue with which to buy stuff (like a new public safety network, E911 upgrades, and a …
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Late last year I had the pleasure of participating in an event on Spectrum Auctions put together by the New America Foundation.  I’ve blogged about the event before, but when it was recently reported that T-Mobile’s CFO, Braxton Carter, stated that consolidation in the mobile wireless sector was inevitable (“It’s not a question of if, it is a question of when”), I was reminded of an interesting anecdote provided by one of the event’s other participants—former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.     Specifically, Chairman Hundt was recounting his experience in designing and implementing the first PCS spectrum auctions back in the 1990s.  (Watch the first video …
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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 review (aside from being required …
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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, the document was rich in …
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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, then States also have every …
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Last December, I authored a blog entitled Price, Profit, and Efficiency: Mark Cooper’s Bungled Analysis.  Using basic economics, my blog describes in detail why a report authored by Mark Cooper from the Consumer Federation of America (“CFA”) entitled Comparing Apples to Apples:  How Competitive Provider Services Outpace the Baby Bell Duopoly — Municipal Wireline and Non-Baby Bell Wireless Service Providers Deliver Products that are More Consumer-Friendly reached a conclusion that was not supported by economic theory.  Mark’s argument was that AT&T and Verizon charge higher prices and earn higher profits than do Sprint and T-Mobile and that such an outcome prescribes “a really good suspicion …
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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 of the Open Internet Order, …
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Last week marked the two-year anniversary of the (dare I say ignominious) defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act or “SOPA.”  The defeat of SOPA marked a bit of a watershed in American politics, as the legislation was stopped not by traditional means such as a Presidential veto or even a backroom hold by a senior legislator, but by a massive grassroots up-swell (complete with self-imposed blackouts of many popular web pages) who feared a purported government takeover of the Internet.  Putting aside for the moment that a good deal of the objections to SOPA were based on sophistry and outright dis-information (indeed, a close …
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Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held its kick-off hearing on a potential update of our nation’s communications laws with no less than four former FCC Chairmen.  As was appropriate, the hearing did not focus on specific items for change, but rather facilitated an excellent discussion of broad themes on how Congress should approach the complex task ahead.  I commend the Committee for holding this discussion, because it is very important, in the words of Congressman John Dingell, for Congress to “legislate properly” in order to minimize the inevitable unintended consequences.  Indeed, while Congress has had its share of legislative successes in the …
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