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HissyFitWatch: Republicans Accuse the White House of Pressuring FCC on Net Neutrality

Wheeler at this morning's hearing.

Wheeler at this morning’s hearing.

Revenge-seeking Republicans spent more than two hours this morning grilling the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, in the first of five Congressional hearings on the agency to be held over the next two weeks.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, accused the FCC of a lack of transparency regarding the recent release of Net Neutrality rules that universally ban paid fast lanes and revenue-based traffic management. Republicans accused the Obama Administration of secretly pressuring Wheeler to adopt strong Open Internet protections.

“The lack of transparency surrounding the open Internet rule-making process raises a lot of questions,” said Chaffetz.

Chaffetz, most of his Republican colleagues, and many large telecom companies object to the Net Neutrality rules and suggest Wheeler’s rumored original lighter-touch “hybrid approach” was swamped by White House objections and replaced with a much stronger Open Internet policy framed around Title II reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service at the urging of the administration.

Chaffetz dismissed comments from four million Americans writing the FCC in favor of Net Neutrality claiming the writers did not recommend Title II reclassification of broadband, despite the fact many suggested exactly that.

To bolster Republican arguments that President Obama exercised undue influence on an independent agency, Chaffetz’s committee selectively released portions of now-unredacted email exchanges between Wheeler, agency officials, Congress, and the White House. It also included a partial e-mail exchange involving AT&T’s top lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, who is evidently on a first-name basis with some of the FCC’s highest officials, including Wheeler’s senior counselor, Philip Verveer.

In response to a November 10 news release featuring comments from FCC chairman Wheeler in response to President Barack Obama’s statements of support for strong Net Neutrality, Cicconi sent a concerned email to Wheeler’s office the Republicans chose not to disclose. But they did include Verveer’s response:

Jim,

We’re trying to schedule a conversation about this morning’s developments for some time this afternoon. I hope we’re able to connect.

Phil

In response to that, Cicconi fired off this quick response from his iPad:

I hope so too.

Now I at least understand why you pushed the hybrid.

This is awful. And bad for any semblance of agency independence too.

Too many people saw Zients going in to meet with Tom last week.

verveer

Cicconi is referring to Jeff Zients, a White House economic adviser, who met with Wheeler on Nov. 6. In Cicconi’s mind, and by extension the Republicans at today’s House hearing, that meeting represented “undue pressure from the White House.”

Republicans also attempted to prove the FCC and the White House closely collaborated on a rollout of Net Neutrality using an email from an irritated Wheeler to his senior staff shortly after his driveway was blocked by Net Neutrality activists:

FYI, Isn’t it interesting:

  1. The day of the demonstration just happens to be the day folks take action at my house.
  2. The video of [President Obama] just happens to end up on the same message as the video from [the president].
  3. The White House sends this email to their supporter list asking “pass this on to anyone who cares about saving the Internet.”

Hmmm….

wheeler demo

chaffetz

Chaffetz

But Wheeler’s message suggests he was never aware of the White House’s campaign to bolster Net Neutrality, much less a part of it.

A third email from then Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office revealed the senator was no fan of Title II reclassification of broadband to protect Net Neutrality. David Krone, Reid’s chief of staff, lectured Wheeler about keeping strong Net Neutrality off the table because it creates “problems for us.”

In May 2014, chairman Wheeler announced his plans for a hybrid approach to Net Neutrality that would likely combine bans on censorship with permission for Internet providers to set up paid fast lanes for content producers like Netflix.

Initial media reports of Wheeler’s intentions sparked a major backlash against the proposal among Net Neutrality advocates.

In a May 15, 2014 email exchange with Wheeler, Krone attempted to buck up Wheeler and his “third way” Net Neutrality plan once in the morning before it was announced and later that evening after the proposal took heavy fire in the press.

9:26 am (Krone to Wheeler)

Good luck today.

Not sure how things have landed but I trust you to make it work. Please shout if you need anything.

Spoke again with the [White House] and told them to back off Title II. Went through once again the problems it creates for us.

6:15pm (Krone to Wheeler)

Too funny. I literally just watched your remarks from this morning. Spot on. Thank you!!!

P.S. Zients was definitely reacting to press reports. Or, should I say, overreacting. My main point to the [White House] is how can you declare today that regulations written in the 1930’s will work fine for 2014 technology. Let Tom do his job and this will be fine.

reid

Another email exchange between Wheeler and John Podesta, counselor to the president, referenced a New York Times story that signaled Wheeler was backpedaling on Net Neutrality, a story later proven inaccurate.

podesta

At this morning’s hearing, Wheeler pushed back against the Republican accusations.

“There were no secret instructions from the White House,” Wheeler said. “I did not, as CEO of an independent agency, feel obligated to follow the president’s recommendation.”

C-SPAN carried this morning’s hearing with FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler appearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (2 hours, 41 minutes)

FCC Releases Final Net Neutrality Rules (and the Endless Republican Dissent)

Phillip Dampier March 12, 2015 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

FCC-15-24A1

The Federal Communications Commission this morning released its final order detailing the agency’s official Net Neutrality rules intended to protect and preserve a free and open Internet.

The 400-page document includes footnoted, plain language explanations and arguments in favor of the new regulations as well as the rules of the road for Internet Service Providers, details about how to complain about alleged violators, and lengthy objections from the two Republican commissioners who oppose the new net policies.

Despite the exposition and dissent (and the Wall Street Journal editorial page calling the document a “blobfish,” the Net Neutrality rules and supplementary definitions are around 450 words long:

A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.

A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service, or use of a non-harmful device, subject to reasonable network management.

A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not engage in paid prioritization.

“Paid prioritization” refers to the management of a broadband provider’s network to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other traffic, including through use of techniques such as traffic shaping, prioritization, resource reservation, or other forms of preferential traffic management, either (a) in exchange for consideration (monetary or otherwise) from a third party, or (b) to benefit an affiliated entity.

Any person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage (i) end users’ ability to select, access, and use broadband Internet access service or the lawful Internet content, applications, services, or devices of their choice, or (ii) edge providers’ ability to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to end users. Reasonable network management shall not be considered a violation of this rule.

A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.

A mass-market retail service by wire or radio that provides the capability to transmit data to and receive data from all or substantially all Internet endpoints, including any capabilities that are incidental to and enable the operation of the communications service, but excluding dial-up Internet access service. This term also encompasses any service that the Commission finds to be providing a functional equivalent of the service described in the previous sentence, or that is used to evade the protections set forth in this Part.

A network management practice is a practice that has a primarily technical network management justification, but does not include other business practices. A network management practice is reasonable if it is primarily used for and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service.

In brief, the new rules forbid providers from fiddling with your Internet traffic for the purposes of speeding up their preferred partners while slowing down everyone else for economic motivations. It does allow providers to engage in reasonable “network management” as long as those management techniques apply equally to all content of a specific type. For instance, Comcast cannot slow down Netflix while speeding up its own affiliated online streaming services.

FCC Releases Final Net Neutrality Rules and Debunks Industry Critics in Fact/Fiction News Release

Phillip Dampier March 12, 2015 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

As part of the Federal Communications Commission’s release of final Net Neutrality regulations, the FCC included this “Fact/Fiction” news release intending to debunk industry (and political) opposition to Net Neutrality.

fccThe Open Internet Order: Preserving and Protecting the Internet for All Americans

The Commission has released the full and final text of the Open Internet Order, which will preserve and protect the Internet as a platform for innovation, expression and economic growth. An Open Internet means consumers can go where they want, when they want. It means innovators can develop products and services without asking for permission. It means consumers will demand more and better broadband as they enjoy new Internet services, applications and content.

Protecting Consumers, Providing Certainty for Innovators and Investors
Before the Commission adopted this Order, there were no rules preventing broadband providers from conduct that would threaten the Open Internet.  This Order implements bright line rules to ban blocking, throttling and paid prioritization (or “fast lanes”) and, for the first time, the rules fully apply to mobile.

Open Internet rules are grounded in the strongest possible legal foundation by relying on multiple sources of authority, including Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. However, as part of this Order, the Commission refrains (or “forbears”) from enforcing provisions of Title II that are not relevant to modern broadband service.  Together, Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed by innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers.

Separating Fact from Fiction
The Order uses every tool in the Commission’s toolbox to make sure the Internet stays fair, fast and open for all Americans, while ensuring investment and innovation can flourish. We encourage the public to read the Order, which reflects the input of millions of Americans and allows everyone to separate myths from fact, such as:

Myth: This is utility-style regulation.

Fact: The Order takes a modernized approach to Title II, tailored for the 21st Century

There is no “utility-style” regulation. The Order bars the kinds of tariffing, rate regulation, unbundling requirements and administrative burdens that are the hallmarks of traditional utility regulation. No broadband provider will need to get the FCC’s approval before offering any price, product or plan. (paragraphs 37-38, 417, 451-452, 497-505)

Myth: The FCC plans to set broadband rates and regulate retail prices in response to consumer complaints.

Fact: The Order doesn’t regulate retail broadband rates.

Old-style telephone regulation required companies to file tariffs with the FCC and await regulatory review before they could bring new products to markets – such an approval process does not exist and is not permitted under this Order. Broadband providers will be able to adjust retail rates without Commission approval and without having to wait even a minute. (paragraphs 37, 451-452, 497-505)

Much has been made of the Section 201(b) authority in Title II under which the Commission may hear complaints and respond to conduct that violates our Open Internet rules. The claim is made that it will be a back-door form of rate regulation. This exact same authority has existed for wireless voice service since 1993 and has never produced rate regulation. (paragraphs 38, 409-410, 421-423)

Myth: This will increase consumers’ broadband bills and/or raise taxes.

Fact: The Order doesn’t impose new taxes or fees or otherwise increase prices.

Nothing in the Order imposes or authorizes new taxes or fees.  In fact, the Internet Tax Freedom Act currently bans state and local taxes on broadband access regardless of how the FCC classifies it.  With respect to Universal Service, the Order does not impose mandatory contribution assessments, but simply allows a current, separate proceeding on how to reform universal service contributions to proceed.  (paragraphs 37, 57-58, 430-433, 488-491)

Myth: This is a plan to regulate the Internet and let the government take over the Internet.

Fact: The Order doesn’t regulate Internet content, applications or services or how the Internet operates, its routing or its addressing.

The Order does not regulate the Internet. It applies to broadband providers – the companies that connect people’s homes to the public Internet.  In other words, the Order protects consumers’ and innovators’ “last-mile” access to what’s on the Internet—the applications, content or services that ride on it and the devices that attach to it.  It means consumers can go where they want, when they want and it means innovators can develop products and services without asking for permission.  (paragraphs 25-26, 186-193,336-340,382)

Myth: This proposal means the FCC will get to decide which service plan you can choose.

Fact: The Order doesn’t limit consumers’ choices or ban broadband data plans.

There is no approval requirement before retail plans, prices or services can be offered to consumers. Broadband providers will continue to be able to offer new competitive services and rates. This means that when a broadband provider wants to add a faster tier of service at a new price, for instance, it is free to do so. Similarly, a broadband provider is free to change pricing without approval. What providers can’t do is engage in behavior that threatens the Open Internet. (paragraphs 139, 144, 151-153)

Myth: This will embolden authoritarian states to tighten their grip on the Internet.

Fact: The Open Internet rules ensure the Internet continues to be a powerful platform for free expression, innovation and economic growth.

This Order does not regulate the operation of the Internet nor does it endorse governmental control of the way people use the Internet. This Order is a strong statement that no one – government or corporation – should interfere with the user’s right of free and open access to the Internet.  In order to encourage other governments to establish policies to protect the free exchange of ideas on an open, unrestricted Internet, we must first protect those values at home.  (paragraphs 76-77)

Myth: This will stifle innovation in new areas of Internet connectivity like connected cars or tele-health.

Fact: The Order doesn’t regulate the class of IP-based services that do not connect to the public Internet.

The Order does not regulate data services that do not go over the public Internet —sometimes called “specialized services” or “managed services” and described in the Order as “non-BIAS (Broadband Internet Access Service) services”. Consumers who buy these services don’t get, and don’t expect to get, access to all points on the Internet. Examples can include: VoIP from a cable system, VoLTE from a mobile operator, a dedicated heart-monitoring service, e-readers, connected cars, and other innovative data services we cannot imagine today. (paragraphs 35, 207-213)

Myth: This will lead to slower broadband speeds and reduced investment in broadband deployment.

Fact: The Order doesn’t reduce broadband investment or slow broadband speeds.

More openness leads to more consumer demand for more and better broadband. It’s that simple. No price regulation means consumer revenues for ISPs should be the same the day after the Order takes effect as they were the day before. It is these revenues that provide the stimulus for investment. History proves that investment will not be affected. For instance, in addition to the $270 billion invested in wireless voice service in the years in which it was the prime driver of mobile traffic (through 2009), wireline DSL was regulated as a common-carrier service until 2005—including a period in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s that saw the highest levels of wireline broadband infrastructure investment ever. (paragraphs 39, 412-414, 421-425)

More recently, Verizon spent $4.74 billion in 2008 for licenses to C-block spectrum governed by FCC open access regulations and since then has invested tens of billions of dollars deploying mobile services.  And just this year, Sprint, T-Mobile, Google Fiber, Frontier Communications, COMPTEL and NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association have all said that applying Title II to broadband services won’t harm investment.  Finally, the recent AWS auction, conducted under the prospect of Title II regulation, generated bids (net of bidding credits) of more than $41 billion—further demonstrating that robust investment is not inconsistent with a modern, light-touch Title II regime. (paragraphs 339-40, 416, 423)

Myth: The new transparency rules add up to a new form of regulation.

Fact: Clear disclosure requirements benefit both consumers and industry.

The enhanced transparency requirements, which build on the existing transparency rule, will do a better job of ensuring that consumers know the price and performance of their Internet connections. They also benefit broadband providers and Internet content, application, and service providers by removing unnecessary uncertainties that affect the quality of their services.  That’s not regulation, that’s efficient common-sense consumer protection. (paragraphs 23-24, 154-185)

Myth:  The general conduct standard will chill innovation.

Fact: This is not new ground.  The Commission also adopted a general conduct standard in 2010 and investment flourished.

There has always been a “just and reasonable” standard for telecommunications services – and investment has flourished. Since 2005, the Commission has made plain its intent to take action to preserve the Open Internet – and broadband services and investment have continued grow. Of specific significance, the 2010 Open Internet Order applied such a general conduct standard that was in force until 2014. In the three years that the 2010 Open Internet rules were in effect, broadband capital expenditures increased from $64 billion in 2009 to $75 billion in 2013. The standard adopted in the Order is tailored to the open Internet harms the Commission has identified.  It focuses on whether the broadband provider is using its gatekeeper status in ways that unreasonably affect consumers’ and edge providers’ ability to use the Internet to communicate with each other.  (paragraphs 2-4, 20-22, 133-153)

FCC Votes to Enforce Net Neutrality and Overturns Municipal Broadband Bans in N.C., Tenn.

Phillip Dampier February 26, 2015 Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't 6 Comments
Net Neutrality victory. (Mignon Clyburn (L), Thomas Wheeler (C), and Jessica Rosenworcel (R) celebrate their majority vote in favor of Net Neutrality. (Image: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Net Neutrality victory. Democratic FCC commissioners Mignon Clyburn (L), Thomas Wheeler (C), and Jessica Rosenworcel (R) celebrate their majority vote in favor of Net Neutrality. (Image: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission voted today to regulate broadband service as a telecommunications service and public utility, guaranteeing providers will not be allowed to interfere with Internet traffic.

Three of the five commissioners voted in favor of strong Net Neutrality protections, equally applicable to home wired broadband and wireless service, while two Republican commissioners decried the FCC’s move as a regulatory overreach.

“The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who reacted emotionally to opposition charges that Net Neutrality would lead to a government takeover of the Internet. Wheeler called many of the critical statements made by Net Neutrality opponents “nonsense.”

“Today is the proudest day of my public policy life,” Wheeler said.

The FCC also voted 3-2 in favor of sweeping away state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that restrict municipal broadband development. Wheeler called the anti-public broadband initiatives “red tape” and anticompetitive. The change will allow services like Fibrant and Greenlight in North Carolina and EPB in North Carolina to immediately begin planning expansion outside of their current service areas. It could also spark new community network development, if today’s FCC actions survive an anticipated court challenge.

Today’s decision does not overturn community broadband bans in more than a dozen other states, but does open the door for municipal providers to file requests with the FCC to overturn similar laws.

Despite claims by providers the move would saddle providers with 1930s era telephone regulations, the FCC today adopted a broadly whittled down set of principles under Title II of the Communications Act which redefines broadband as a “telecommunications service.” The FCC will not regulate consumer pricing or how services are marketed to the public. It will observe and referee disputes between providers and content creators and guarantee no blocking, no speed throttling, and no paid Internet fast lanes.

Wall Street had little reaction to today’s events with most cable and telco stocks remaining flat or slightly higher this afternoon. Investors appear to be unconcerned by the new broadband regulatory framework.

CNBC (Comcast)’s Magic Box of Tricks and Traps: The Hit on Tumblr Founder David Karp Debunked

Uh oh... deer in headlights moment for Tumblr founder David Karp.

Uh oh… deer in headlights moment for Tumblr founder David Karp.

Net Neutrality opponents today made hay about an underwhelming, sometimes stumbling debate performance by Tumblr founder David Karp, who was inexplicably CNBC’s go-to-guy to explain the inner machinations of the multi-billion dollar high-speed Internet connectivity business.

TechFreedom, an industry-funded libertarian-leaning group spent much of the day hounding Karp about his “painful, babbling CNBC interview.”

“Those pushing #TitleII have NO FREAKING CLUE what it means,” tweeted TechFreedom’s Berin Szoka.

BTIG Research devoted a whole page to the eight minute performance, where Karp faced interrogation by two CNBC hosts openly hostile to Net Neutrality and another that expressed profound concern the Obama Administration would over-enforce Net Neutrality under Title II regulations. CNBC is owned by Comcast, a fierce opponent of mandatory Net Neutrality.

“Given the importance of Net Neutrality and the central role played by Tumblr’s Karp in getting us to this point, we thought it was very important for everyone to watch his interview earlier today on CNBC in its entirety,” wrote Rich Greenfield, noting the “best parts” (where Karp appeared like a deer frozen by oncoming headlights) were encapsulated into an extra video clip.

Greenfield referred to a Wall Street Journal piece in February that suggested access means everything when it comes to D.C. politics:

“In a lucky coincidence, Tumblr Chief Executive David Karp, who attended the meeting in New York, found himself seated next to Mr. Obama at a fundraiser the following day hosted by investment manager Deven Parekh.

Mr. Karp told Mr. Obama about his concerns with the net-neutrality plan backed by Mr. Wheeler, according to people familiar with the conversation. Those objections were relayed to the White House aides secretly working on an alternative.”

That was sufficient for some to imply Karp was a powerful influence over the president’s sudden pronouncement last November that strong, all-encompassing Net Neutrality was the was to go.

CNBC’s hosts grilled Karp, asking him to prove a negative, set up false premises for Karp to defend, and repeatedly cut his answers off. At the same time, Karp was clearly unprepared and often did not have his facts in order.

Stop the Cap! sorts it all out.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC Tumblr Net Neutrality 2-24-15.flv

Nobody’s shining moment on the Net Neutrality debate on CNBC featuring an unprepared David Karp, founder of Tumblr vs. the B-team at CNBC – lackeys with an agenda who can’t wait to interrupt. Truth comes in last place. (8:18)

CNBC Claim: “If you talk to AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, he will say right now they have more capital expenditures than any company in America … and if you turn it into a utility it will not be profitable to continue investing like that.”

Fact: AT&T does invest heavily in its network but also enjoys very healthy returns on that investment. In 2014, AT&T was expected to end the year spending about $21 billion, primarily on its highly profitable wireless network. Last week, USA Today published a list of the top 12 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 that boosted capital spending by 40% or more in the past 12 months and spent at least 15% of revenue on capital expenditures. AT&T was not on it. Outside of claims from telecom companies and their lobbyists, there are no plans by the FCC to turn broadband into a regulated utility.

Karp Claim: “There is a tremendous amount of throttling going on right now.”

CNBC Question from Alternate Universe of Fair, Balanced Journalism:

CNBC Question from Alternate Universe of Fair, Balanced Journalism: “In general, do you think heavy-handed government regulation is a good thing or a bad thing for an industry?”

Fact: “Throttling” is not well-defined here. There is intentional throttling among certain wireless companies, usually under the guise of “fair access policies” and usage caps, and there is throttling as a side effect of congestion in two areas: backbone connectivity among certain ISPs and wholesale traffic handlers and last mile congestion among providers, especially those offering DSL in rural areas, where multiple customers share access to a limited capacity middle mile network. There is no evidence that any significant wired providers are intentionally throttling the speeds of services except as part of a fair access policy or a purposeful lack of investment in network upgrades.

CNBC Claim: “You have a monopoly because it is really expensive to build the pipes so you have not had multiple people who will build pipes to the door.”

Fact: The capital cost required to offer wired broadband service to each home is a clear deterrent for many providers, but not an insurmountable one as Google and community-owned providers have demonstrated. The cable industry won early protection from competition in exclusive franchise agreements that calmed investor fears that the enormous cost of wiring communities for cable might not be repaid if a competition war broke out. AT&T later fought for and won statewide franchising agreements and considerable deregulation in many states where it provides U-verse, arguing regulatory burden reduction would enhance competition. But the same large cable and phone companies that achieved deregulation for themselves have lobbied heavily to regulate and banish community-owned providers from getting off the ground by encouraging the passage of restrictive state laws making such competition nearly impossible.

CNBC Question: “In general, do you think heavy-handed government regulation is a good thing or a bad thing for an industry?”

Our reply: Really?

Karp: I think a bright line rule that sort of spells out these foundational principles that we believe in… I think the Bill of Rights is a good thing… even without getting into the weeds, spelling out something like the First Amendment that says this is a truth that we believe… (cut off).

CNBC: I don’t see how that is an answer at all comparing this to the Bill of… I understand the Bill of Rights but… has there been a problem up to this point where you feel that people… that Net Neutrality has been violated.

Karp: We’ve had instances where companies like Comcast have tried to block whole protocols and shut off consumers access to new innovative parts of the Internet.

Traffic congestion problems on many major ISPs were limited to Netflix traffic, until Netflix began paying for peering connections with problem ISPs.

Traffic congestion problems on many major ISPs were limited to Netflix traffic, until Netflix began paying for peering connections with problem ISPs.

Fact: In 2007, Comcast installed new software or equipment on its networks that began selectively interfering with some of Comcast’s customers’ TCP/IP connections. The most widely discussed interference was with certain BitTorrent peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing communications, but other protocols were also affected. The case led to an effort by the FCC to introduce open Internet traffic rules in 2010 which Comcast later defeated in court. At no time did Comcast completely block access – it simply impeded it, reducing customer speeds only while using those services.

A CNBC host then challenged Karp to prove a negative on AT&T’s plans to pull back investment in its network expansion.

“How has it been disproven that he’s not actually going to pull in on his buildout of more infrastructure?”

Fact: On Nov 7, 2014 – a week before President Obama unveiled his support for strong Net Neutrality policies – AT&T announced at least $3 billion in capex reduction (or “pull in” to quote CNBC) for 2015 in a press release on its acquisition of Mexico Wireless Provider Iusacell:

AT&T’s VIP-related capital investment levels will peak in 2014, as the company has said previously. As a result, AT&T expects its 2015 capital expenditure budget for its existing businesses to be in the $18 billion range. This will bring the company’s capital spending as a percent of total revenues to the mid-teens level — consistent with its historical capital spending levels.

Even after AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was announcing cutbacks in capex, his office was releasing press releases claiming a major expansion of AT&T’s gigabit fiber upgrades for U-verse, claims Stop the Cap! have found to be grossly exaggerated.

Stephenson made the mistake of putting the cart in front of the broadband horse, making it impossible to credibly claim he was reducing his capex budget because of a Net Neutrality policy that had not even been announced yet.

CNBC Claim: “It doesn’t mean someone will pay for it if they are losing money as a result.”

Fact: None of the providers mentioned by CNBC have lost any money provisioning broadband service. In fact, broadband is becoming the new profit center of the industry, netting higher revenue after adjustments for cost than any other part of the cable package.

Another exchange:

CNBC: “If you look at Netflix traffic, sometimes it is 80 percent of the network’s nighttime load.”

Karp: “The consumers are paying for it and Netflix is already paying for it.”

CNBC: “I am not a Netflix user and it ticks me off I have to subsidize everybody that is doing that. Why do I have to pay for that?”

Fact: The CNBC host is being disingenuous and inaccurate. Although Netflix traffic can constitute 80% of the evening traffic load, the customers accessing Netflix paid both Netflix and their ISP for that traffic. Whether or not the CNBC host uses Netflix or not is irrelevant. Assuming she is a Comcast or Time Warner Cable customer, last mile congestion that could impact her enjoyment of the Internet was never an issue under DOCSIS 2, has been rendered a non-issue under the current DOCSIS 3 standard, and will remain a non issue going forward.

The traffic dispute between Comcast and Netflix only affected Netflix viewing. The CNBC host need not subsidize Netflix or anyone else. Netflix offers free peering services and equipment to any ISP that wants it. Comcast refused to take part, demanding financial compensation instead. It then raised rates on customers anyway. Her beef is with Comcast, not Netflix.

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