Push to name donors in political ads hits FCC roadblock – By Mario Trujillo – 05/26/15 06:00 AM EDT

Getty Images

Getty Images

Congressional Democrats’ push to strengthen political ad disclosures in time for the 2016 elections appears dead for now after hitting a roadblock at the Federal Communications Commission.

Amid a divisive legal battle over new net neutrality rules and other pressing telecommunications issues at the FCC, Chairman Tom Wheeler suggested the commission has little appetite to take up a fix on its own.

“Maybe you noticed — we have a long list of difficult telecommunications related decisions that we are dealing with right now. And that will be our focus,” Wheeler said last week when asked if the commission would initiate new rules on its own.

Billions of dollars are expected pour into the 2016 election, and Democrats have pressed the FCC to update its rules to require large donors to be identified at the end of television ads purchased by super-PACs and other outside groups.

Lawmakers in both chambers have introduced bills to force the agency’s hand and Wheeler, a Democrat, noted he would “clearly follow” any mandate from Congress.

But the title of the House proposal — which overtly references GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch — indicates that the party sees it as more of a messaging bill than anything else. And a failed vote on the legislation in a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee last week confirmed that the proposal would not be able to get passed Republican opposition.

“This isn’t the place for it. If you want to do campaign finance reform, there are other committees of jurisdiction,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who leads the House subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

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Who can hate a Roomba? Astronomers, that’s who.

The robotic vacuums we all know and love ensure we don’t have to clean our own homes ourselves to get them spotless. (God forbid.) Now, the Roomba’s maker, iRobot, wants to do for lawn care what it did for vacuuming. According to filings with the FCC spotted by IEEE Spectrum, iRobot is designing a robotic mower—news that should elate lazy people the world over.

But one group is really, really unhappy about this boon to the slothful: Astronomers. Some of them are so upset, in fact, that their objections might put the kibosh on the whole thing. How could this be? In a scenario that sounds straight out of the Golden Age of sci-fi, it all comes down to robots versus telescopes, and how they all communicate.

The saga started in February, when iRobot filed a waiver request with the FCC seeking approval to use a portion of the radio spectrum to help guide its robomower. The problem with grass-cutting bots, according to iRobot’s filing, is the only way to get them to work is to dig a trench along the perimeter of a lawn and install a wire that creates the electronic fence needed to ensure the automatons don’t wander beyond the property line.

As a less arduous solution, iRobot proposes using stakes, driven into the ground, to act as beacons. The beacons will talk to the lawnbot, helping it map the area and stay within the designated boundaries. A typical user with a typical lawn (a quarter to a third of an acre) might need between four and nine beacons.

But the system requires special permission from the FCC due to its restrictions on fixed outdoor infrastructure. In a nutshell, the FCC doesn’t want people creating ad hoc networks of transmitters, which could interfere with existing authorized services like cellular and GPS systems. In its filings, iRobot says it should be exempt because it doesn’t set out to establish a broad communications network—its lawnbot networks would be tightly contained.

Astronomers say that’s not good enough. The frequency band proposed for the lawnbot (6240-6740 MHz) is the very same one several enormous radio telescopes operate on. Astronomers want the FCC to protect their share of the radio spectrum so their telescopes continue observing methanol, which abounds in regions where celestial bodies are forming.

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FCC Enacts Title II Net Neutrality Rules With Partisan Vote – By Tom Risen Feb. 26, 2015 | 2:21 p.m. EST

The fight over regulating the Internet is far from over, however.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler (C) holds hands with FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, left, and Jessica Rosenworcel during an open hearing on Net Neutrality at the FCC headquarters February 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler holds hands with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, left, and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during a hearing on Thursday. The agency has voted in favor of new rules governing Internet traffic.

After nearly a year of intense debate about the future of the Internet, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to approve net neutrality rules that aim to preserve competition online by treating all Internet traffic equally.

But Republicans and telecom companies still plan to fight the regulation in court and in Congress.

[READ: Republicans Defy Net Neutrality Ahead of FCC Vote]

The newly approved rules forbid Internet service providers from blocking or slowing the traffic of their rivals, and ban new fees for faster download speeds that would create “paid prioritization” or “fast lanes.” The rules will affect competition between certain companies, especially those reliant on fast download speeds like Skype and Netflix.

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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: This Is How We Will Ensure Net Neutrality – BY TOM WHEELER 02.04.15 | 11:00 AM

Federal Communication Commission(FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler waits for a hearing at the FCC December 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Federal Communication Commission(FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler waits for a hearing at the FCC December 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.  Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

After more than a decade of debate and a record-setting proceeding that attracted nearly 4 million public comments, the time to settle the Net Neutrality question has arrived. This week, I will circulate to the members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules to preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression. This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input received over the last several months.

Broadband network operators have an understandable motivation to manage their network to maximize their business interests. But their actions may not always be optimal for network users. The Congress gave the FCC broad authority to update its rules to reflect changes in technology and marketplace behavior in a way that protects consumers. Over the years, the Commission has used this authority to the public’s great benefit.

The internet wouldn’t have emerged as it did, for instance, if the FCC hadn’t mandated open access for network equipment in the late 1960s. Before then, AT&T prohibited anyone from attaching non-AT&T equipment to the network. The modems that enabled the internet were usable only because the FCC required the network to be open.

Companies such as AOL were able to grow in the early days of home computing because these modems gave them access to the open telephone network.

I personally learned the importance of open networks the hard way. In the mid-1980s I was president of a startup, NABU: The Home Computer Network. My company was using new technology to deliver high-speed data to home computers over cable television lines. Across town Steve Case was starting what became AOL. NABU was delivering service at the then-blazing speed of 1.5 megabits per second—hundreds of times faster than Case’s company. “We used to worry about you a lot,” Case told me years later.

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Does the Web Seem Way Slow Today? It May Be Soon If You Don’t Get in the FCC’s Face – —By Josh Harkinson| Wed Sep. 10, 2014 6:14 PM EDT


No, the internet isn’t actually broken today. Those spinning wheels of death you may have seen on Netflix, Tumblr, Reddit, Mozilla, and hundreds of other sites are part of Internet Slowdown Day, an effort to show what might happen if the internet actually did get broken by the bureaucrats at the Federal Communication Commission. The FCC will soon vote on a proposal to essentially eliminate net neutrality, the policy that forces internet providers such as Comcast and AT&T to treat all internet traffic the same. Here are five things you should know about what’s happening today:

The Participating websites aren’t actually slower: Not even Netflix is crazy enough to make a political statement by throttling itself. The spinning page-load symbols on participating sites are just widgets (see below), which anyone can download here. Some activists are also replacing their social media profile pics with images like this:

In this sense, Internet Slowdown Day is very similar to the SOPA blackout of 2012, when people and major sites across the internet blackened their logos and profile pictures to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have given the federal government wide latitude to enforce copyright law. SOPA showed that when major internet companies team up with grassroots activists, politicians tend to listen.


The real story is who is not participating: Although Google claims to support net neutrality, it’s conspicuously silent about Internet Slowdown Day. Last year, Wired‘s Ryan Singel noted that the terms of service for Google Fiber, the company’s relatively new ISP division, included some of the same provisions that Google had long decried as hostile to an open internet. By prohibiting customers from attaching “servers” to its network, Google Fiber was contradicting the principle of treating all packets of information equally, prompting Singel to accuse the search giant of a “flip-flop” on net neutrality. It’s not that simple, of course, but tech companies such as Google clearly have much less to gain from net neutrality now that they’re multibillion-dollar behemoths. Even if they don’t take on the role of actual ISPs, large tech firms can easily afford to pay cable companies for faster service, creating a competitive firewall between their services and those offered by leaner startups.

In america, every day is already an internet slowdown day: Pushing internet traffic into “slow” lanes might be more tolerable if those lanes were still really fast in absolute terms. Sadly, however, the United States ranks a pathetic 25th among nations for download speeds:

This show is bigger than the superbowl: The net neutrality debate has generated a record 1,477,301 public comments to the FCC, the commission said today. As Politico notes, that breaks the previous record of 1.4 million complaints generated by Janet Jackson’s 2004 wardrobe malfunction. The number of comments to the FCC will likely continue to grow as Internet Slowdown Day encourages visitors to voice their objections.

the fcc is not your friend: There’s no question that the FCC is facing a public backlash against its plan to gut net neutrality. The question is whether the outrage will be sufficient to change its course. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is a major Obama bundler and former head of two major industry groups that staunchly oppose net neutrality. He’s likely to side with the cable industry unless essentially forced to do otherwise. All of which is to say that the bar is incredibly high for Internet Slowdown Day. Until “net neutrality” becomes a household term, don’t count on Washington to care about it.

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Lawsuit puts ‘cloud’ over airwave auction – By Kate Tummarello – 08/23/14 06:43 PM EDT

Broadcasters are threatening to stand in the way of next year’s highly anticipated airwave auction, putting one the Obama administration’s top priorities at risk.

Officials in the broadcast and wireless industry are hopeful that a new lawsuit from the National Association of Broadcasters will put pressure on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reach a reach a compromise to save the auction — expected to net billions of dollars — from would could be a months-long delay.

“This lawsuit puts a cloud over the auction,” said one Republican FCC aide.

“It would make sense for the Commission to work something out with the NAB.”

One broadcast industry source said the FCC could avoid lengthy delays to the crucial auction if it is willing to work with the broadcasters.

“The suit does not have to result in a delay,” the source said.

“There are a couple of issues that if taken off the table, broadcasters would anticipate dropping the lawsuit.”

In May, the FCC vote 3-2 along party lines to approve rules for the broadcasters that will be affected by the auction.

The FCC sale will involve buying back airwaves from broadcasters and selling those airwaves to spectrum-hungry wireless companies looking to boost their cellphone networks. The proceeds will go towards funding a nation-wide network for first responders and reducing the national deficit.

According to the NAB, the FCC’s rules for broadcasters violate the law that authorized the auction.

Specifically, the broadcasters are unhappy with changes to the software that the FCC will use to specify how many viewers each station has.

Additionally, NAB say the agency should set aside more money to compensate broadcasters who choose not to sell their airwaves, but have to relocate to different channels as a result of the auction

While Congress required the FCC set aside $1.75 billion for those relocation costs, broadcasters are asking for an additional $500 million to cover expenses like building new towers or buying new transmission equipment.

“Local broadcasters should not be forced to go out of pocket to help multi-national wireless giants,” NAB Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning Rick Kaplan in a recent blog post explaining the lawsuit.

Some criticized the broadcaster group for threatening to hold the auction hostage.

In a statement, Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro said the lawsuit is “discouraging” after “the FCC has worked tirelessly with stakeholders and broadcasters to set up a successful incentive auction.”


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NFL blitzes FCC to save blackout rule – By Julian Hattem – 08/07/14 09:06 PM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-08-08 at Aug 8, 2014 1.42 1

Just in time for kickoff, the National Football League is pushing federal regulators to keep a rule on the books that forces cable and satellite companies to black out some games.

In the weeks ahead of Thursday’s preseason opener, the league has rushed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with meetings and letters, even bringing out former Steelers star Lynn Swann to aid the public relations push.

The lobbying effort comes amid intense pressure on the FCC to eliminate its sports blackout rule, which prevents cable and satellite companies from showing a game if it is blacked out on local broadcast stations. Critics say the rule is out of date and bad for fans.

The FCC has begun the process of eliminating the rule, but the NFL, which requires broadcasters to black out games that aren’t sold out 72 hours before kickoff, is pushing back.

The league argues the rule helps teams sell tickets and creates a compelling stadium atmosphere, allowing the NFL to keep games on free television.

League lobbyist Ken Edmonds and other officials met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s legal advisor last Thursday “to emphasize that the FCC’s sports blackout rule remains necessary and in the public interest,” according to a filing made public this week.

NFL officials told the FCC that the league is working with teams “to make blackouts exceedingly rare” by letting them lower the bar of what counts as a sold-out game, and noted that attendance has increased and the number of blackouts “has dropped dramatically.”

Last year, for instance, just two of the NFL’s 256 regular season games were blacked out.

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Dems ask FCC to umpire baseball television fight – By Julian Hattem – 07/28/14 04:34 PM EDT

A group of California Democrats is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to help resolve a dispute between cable companies over showing Los Angeles Dodgers games on television.

Eight Los Angeles-area House lawmakers expressed their “growing concern” about the fight between Time Warner Cable and a slew of other TV companies that so far has left thousands of baseball fans in the dark.

If the FCC does not come in to pinch hit, they warned, the fight could set a precedent “for vertically integrated companies to hold the consumer hostage to assert unfair market dominance.”

Currently, Dodgers games in Los Angeles are shown on SportsNet LA, a new channel owned by the team but distributed by Time Warner Cable. For the privilege of running the station, Time Warner Cable is paying a reported $1.5 million per game, compared with the $335,000 that stations paid to carry games on other channels last year.

Time Warner Cable has asked other cable companies like Cox, DirecTV and Dish for comparably high fees to carry the channel. So far all of them have balked.

That has meant that all season, only Dodgers fans who were also Time Warner Cable subscribers have been able to watch their home team, leaving about 70 percent of the market without the channel.

To fix things, lawmakers called on the FCC to intervene.

“The ongoing stalemate between Time Warner Cable and other pay-TV providers has reached a point where mediation by the FCC is necessary,” they wrote. “The FCC must ensure that we have a competitive market and no one company has an unfair advantage at the expense of consumers.”

The eight California Democrats signing the letter were Reps. Tony Cardenas, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Alan Lowenthal, Brad Sherman, Linda Sanchez, Julia Brownley, Janice Hahn and Judy Chu.

Time Warner Cable is currently seeking approval from the FCC and Justice Department to be purchased by Comcast for $45 billion. Critics of the merger have warned that allowing the two cable giants to merge would create a behemoth that, among other things, could use their market dominance to force sports leagues to show games exclusively on networks they own or control.

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Public piles on net neutrality debate – By TONY ROMM | 6/4/14 11:11 PM EDT

A blistering battle over net neutrality has the Federal Communications Commission hearing an earful — and from more than just the usual torrent of lobbyists and lawyers who swarm the chairman’s eighth-floor office.

Pro-net neutrality advocates are shown. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

The FCC’s online system for public comments ground to a halt Monday. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

Even beyond the Beltway, critics have pilloried the country’s top telecommunications regulator as it weighs new rules to ensure that all Web traffic is treated equally. The debate over net neutrality has always been controversial and complicated — for consumers, companies and courts alike. But Chairman Tom Wheeler’s new blueprint has triggered a reaction far more intense than what might typically greet the early stages of an FCC proceeding.

Many commenters — and members of Congress — bemoan publicly that they have more questions than answers. They fear Wheeler’s approach might create a Web in which companies or consumers have to pay for faster access to the movies and other content they desire, though the chairman has assured otherwise. Adding to the trouble, intense lobbying from all sides of the fight only has imbued the issue with a new alarmism.

As a result, the FCC’s online system for public comments ground to a halt Monday, thanks in part to comedian John Oliver, who urged viewers of his HBO show to contact the agency. It marked only the latest, most high-profile indication yet that net neutrality had touched an unprecedented national nerve.

“It’s an extraordinary demonstration of how much people care about the Internet, and how it has functioned for them, and they don’t want that changed,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), an ardent net neutrality supporter, said in an interview. “They’re fearful about it.”

The FCC for years has struggled to incorporate some form of net neutrality rules. Inheriting the agency as it suffered its latest court defeat, Wheeler earlier in May produced an open Internet order that tracks closely with federal judges’ recommendations. But many net neutrality advocates — from Free Press to Google and Mozilla to a torrent of venture capitalists — quickly charged that Wheeler’s plan would create online “fast lanes.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/net-neutrality-fcc-oliver-internet-107457.html#ixzz33koLX5cB

Could new net neutrality rules fuel piracy? 28 April 2014 Last updated at 05:16 ETBy Debbie Siegelbaum BBC News, Washington

Experts argue higher internet fees may result in more consumers turning to pirated contentA protester wearing an Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask takes part in a demonstration in Zagreb, Croatia, on 11 February 2012

Many consumers were outraged with the news that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was possibly considering new rules allowing net providers to charge more for access to an online fast lane.

People decried the perceived death of open communication, the potential rising costs of access, and perhaps, most importantly, how they would access streaming episodes of favourite programmes like Breaking Bad and House of Cards.

The insatiable demand for streaming content has choked US networks, causing internet service providers (ISPs) to attempt to spread the cost of upgraded service to content providers like Netflix.

According to reports, the FCC will allow a fast lane for data-heavy services when new rules are published in May. Critics say this violates the so-called “net neutrality” principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally.

If such growing costs trickle down to consumers, experts believe a life of internet piracy may seem appealing for those accustomed to cheaper access.

There’s “a real possibility that you will price some people out of the market for legitimate programming and into a market for ill-gotten programming because it will just cost too much or it will become clear they can pay a lot less for it,” says Allen Hammond, director of the Broadband Institute of California.

Already more than 11% of all internet traffic is believed to be illegally shared, copyrighted content such as films and television episodes, according to a report commissioned by NBC Universal.

ISPs like Verizon have acknowledged that video streaming demand has grown exponentially in recent years, eating up to half of bandwidth. And upgrades to current networks can prove very costly.

“Other companies want us to spend our money to help supplement what they may be doing,” Verizon spokeswoman Linda Laughlin says.

As ISPs negotiate with content providers like Netflix, service has sometimes slowed to a near unusable speed for certain customers.

In short, some people are paying for streaming services they are not always receiving.

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