February 11, 2014
Richard Bennett's otherwise splendid "Time to Give Up the Net-Neutrality Quest" (op-ed, Feb. 5; see February 5 NewsClips) on regulation of the broadband industry misses a few critical points.
First, the U.S. is a world leader in broadband. We have the most affordable entry-level pricing, are one of only two countries with three competing broadband technologies and have networks capable of 100 Mbps or faster that are available to 85% of U.S. households (as compared with Europe, where connections of 30-plus Mbps reach only 54% of households). Our broadband investments lead the world and are double our nearest rival.
Second, we already have a vibrant "open Internet" and had one before the 2010 FCC regulations went into place. Nothing in the court's decision changes broadband providers' commitment to open Internet principles that allow consumers to access lawful online content when, where and how they choose.
Third, the Internet isn't like the old Ma Bell telephone system. Some critics now want the FCC to reclassify broadband as a "telecommunications service" and regulate it as a "common carrier" the way the FCC did with Ma Bell. Back then, the government regulated prices, profits and the terms of competition within the industry. But since the Clinton administration, there has been bipartisan consensus that broadband isn't like Ma Bell and should not be regulated as such.
Internet providers are motivated by self-interest to promote an open Internet experience. Broadband companies thrive when their customers have unfettered access to everything online, not by charging a few Internet companies a couple of extra bucks for superhigh definition video, so the suspicions of some critics are really misplaced. Yet the issue of net neutrality has consumed nearly all the oxygen in the telecom policy debate for years, while other issues get ignored. - Letter from Michael Powell, NCTA President & CEO and former FCC Chairman, to the Wall Street Journal
After a formal protest from the National Association of Broadcasters, Nielsen has reversed course and decided to exclude broadband-only homes from its local TV market samples "for the time being." "Broadband-only TV homes will continue to be included in the national TV Universe, the national sample, and the national TV ratings," Nielsen says this week in a memo to clients. "We expect to include broadband-only TV homes back into local measurement when the local market is better prepared to adopt this change." Nielsen had decided to include the broadband-only homes in the local sample just last year.
Nielsen's action came on the heels of a NAB board resolution adopted last week calling on Nielsen to put off the so-called hybrid measurement until it can be fully tested. If broadband-only homes are eventually included, the resolution says, they should be added to the local measurement sample and not replace traditional TV homes. "The impact ... of these new measurements could understate actual viewership of local television stations," the resolution cautions. TV NewsCheck
So much for mass protest.
A consortium of Internet and privacy activists had long promoted Feb. 11 as the day the Internet would collectively stand up and shout down surveillance by the National Security Agency. The group called Tuesday, "The Day We Fight Back," and encouraged websites to join an online campaign modeled after protests against the Stop Online Privacy Act and Protect I.P. Act two years ago, when sites like Reddit and Wikipedia and companies like Google and Facebook helped successfully topple antipiracy legislation. Instead, the protest on Tuesday barely registered. Wikipedia did not participate. Reddit - which went offline for 12 hours during the protests two years ago - added an inconspicuous banner to its homepage. Sites like Tumblr, Mozilla and DuckDuckGo, which were listed as organizers, did nothing to their homepages. The most vocal protesters were the usual suspects: activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and Greenpeace.
The eight major technology companies - Google, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, Apple, Twitter, Yahoo and LinkedIn - that joined forces in December in a public campaign to "reform government surveillance" only participated Tuesday insofar as having a joint website flash the protest banner. The difference may be explained by the fact that two years ago, the Internet powerhouses were trying to halt new legislation. On Tuesday, people were being asked to reverse a secret, multi-billion dollar surveillance effort by five countries that has been in place for nearly a decade.
And unlike 2012, when the goal was simply to block the passage of new bills, the goal of the protests on Tuesday were more muddled. This time around, participants were urged to flash a banner on their sites that urged visitors to call their congressional representative in support of the U.S.A. Freedom Act - a bill sponsored by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, which seeks to reform the N.S.A.'s metadata database. They were also asked to oppose the FISA Improvements Act, a bill proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein that would help legalize the N.S.A.'s metadata collection program.
All was not lost. By late Tuesday, some 70,000 calls had been placed to legislators and roughly 150,000 people had sent their representatives an email. But on privacy forums and Reddit, significant discussions failed to materialize. "Online petitions," one Reddit user wrote of the protest. "The very least you can do, without doing nothing." New York Times
As Stamford, Conn.-based Charter Communications brawls for Time Warner Cable, one of the key questions is who will end up with control of the crown jewels: Manhattan. Comcast, one possible answer, owns systems up and down the Eastern seaboard and has been in talks with Charter to acquire TWC's valuable New York system should Charter win out. But noted cable investor Mario Gabelli, of GAMCO Investors, wonders where Bethpage, NY's, Cablevision is in the mix. "What's going on in Bethpage? Cablevision can't allow Comcast to buy New York. That's a big piece of their backyard," said Gabelli, a major investor in the Dolan family-controlled company. Cablevision has been mute about where it stands vis-a-vis the TWC battle. Macquarie cable analyst Amy Yong agrees it's an open question who will control New York: "Whether Comcast comes in is a big unknown." New York Post
Gov. Tom Corbett is launching his first radio ad campaign this year to support his re-election bid, and although the Republican isn't anticipating a stiff primary challenge, he's battling lackluster polling numbers. Corbett's 60-second ad was to begin running in every media market Tuesday. In it, he touts his fiscal policies and his promise to change Harrisburg, even if they didn't make him popular. Seven Democrats say they plan to seek the party's nomination to challenge Corbett in the Nov. 4 general election. The primary election is May 20. For his re-election campaign, Corbett reported raising $6.8 million last year, with his biggest contributions from Philadelphia cable TV mogul and philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest and the Washington, D.C.-based Republican Governors Association. Associated Press
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