Author Archives: Larry Spiwak

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 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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The SOPA Paradox…

January 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Larry Spiwak in Copyright | Intellectual Property | SOPA - (1 Comments)

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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According to press reports, the Federal Communications Commission is putting the finishing touches on its much-anticipated order establishing the rules for the upcoming voluntary incentive auctions mandated by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012 (the “Spectrum Act”).  The big question, of course, is whether the FCC will impose some sort of bidder exclusion rules that would prohibit—or, at minimum, severely constrain—AT&T and Verizon from acquiring more spectrum in the auction.  While newly-installed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is playing his cards close to the vest, given the Sixth Circuit’s reasoning in Cincinnati Bell v. FCC, 69 F.3rd 752 (6th Cir. 1995), …
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Yesterday, scholars at the Mercatus Center unveiled a new website entitled PiracyData.org.  According to the site’s co-creator Jerry Brito, the purpose of this webpage is to determine whether the most-pirated movies each week are available for legal streaming, digital rental, or digital purchase.  To accomplish this goal, the site combines TorrentFreak’s weekly top-ten list of the most pirated movies with Can I Stream It’s database of movie availability. In light of the demonstrated unreliability of the site’s data—something Mr. Brito concedes—no conclusions or even sensible speculations can be drawn from PiracyData.org.  But, one meaningful question to ask is why is a data set of this …
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The Federal Communications Commission is at a crossroads.  Burdened with implementing laws designed for a market structure of a bygone era—and with little prospect of a comprehensive legislative update on the horizon—incoming FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler faces a daunting task to adapt and modernize the agency’s approach to regulation so that we can remove, in President Obama’s words, those rules which have “outlived their usefulness.”  Equally as important, Mr. Wheeler has the related and no less daunting task of re-establishing the FCC’s credibility with the industry, Capitol Hill, the courts and (most importantly) the public as the “expert” agency which not only uniquely understands the …
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