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Consumer Groups: New FCC Boss Sending 'Mixed Messages'
by Karl Bode 09:55AM Wednesday Dec 04 2013
As I noted yesterday, new FCC boss Tom Wheeler has been saying all the right things as people attempt to get a bead on just what kind of an FCC leader he'll be. Wheeler, a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist, has spent his first few weeks in office absolutely gushing about just how dedicated he plans to be in regards to boosting industry competition.


As such, it was a little confusing to hear him give a college Q&A earlier this week wherein he appeared to give the green light to not only caps and overages, but prioritized access to certain websites:
quote:
In response to a question, Mr. Wheeler indicated that he would not oppose some type of usage-based pricing, with Internet service providers charging so-called data hogs different amounts for service depending on how much data they receive and transmit. …

Mr. Wheeler said variable pricing and service plans represented the effects of competition. “We might see a two-sided market,” he added, in which a company like Netflix might pay an Internet service provider to guarantee that Netflix customers get the best available transmission speeds.
For a purported expert on broadband competition and broadband technology, this statement ignores a few key realities. One, consumer advocates repeatedly point out that usage caps and overages on broadband services can be and are used anti-competitively to artificially protect TV revenues from Internet video -- and they tend to only emerge in the least competitive of markets as a very obvious form of price gouging.

Two, forcing Netflix to pay yet more money to reach consumers faster is a carrier pipe dream from way back. Trying to force content companies to pay additional tolls for no coherent reason is effectively what started the net neutrality debate in the States, when in 2005 then AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre informed Google they wouldn't be able to ride his "pipes for free." Here again, consumer advocates frequently argue that forcing Netflix to pay yet more money to reach an ISPs consumers is about as uncompetitive as it gets.

In short, Wheeler appears to be claiming he hates the disease (a lack of competition), yet seems to enjoy many of the symptoms (low caps, high overages, pay to play prioritization). Needless to say, consumer advocates found Wheeler's latest comments a bit troubling.

"Allowing such anti-competitive practices would be antithetical to his promises to police market abuses and promote competition. Letting incumbent phone and cable companies exploit their dominant position by charging people more to use certain websites and services is a disastrous idea," noted Free Press in a blog post.

Public Knowledge (whose former President Gigi Sohn left the group to work on Wheeler's staff) was equally concerned by the rhetoric but gave Wheeler the benefit of the doubt, calling on him to clarify exactly what he meant.

"His remarks could possibly be interpreted as endorsing CDNs instead of net neutrality violations," Public Knowledge's Michael Weinberg said in a blog post. "If so, he needs to make it clear that he does not support ISPs charging to access their subscribers. More importantly, he claims to support an open internet – but what does that mean to him? If his “open internet” allows ISPs to charge websites and services to access subscribers, he may need to find another term."

You'll recall that Wheeler's appointment saw significant praise from the industry itself, setting off the first wave of alarm bells for fans of something other than status quo at the FCC (lots of talk of competition, few real, substantive pro-competitive actions). If Wheeler's willfully oblivious to the anti-competitive impact of usage caps, overages, and pay-to-play access to consumers, then those alarm bells just got much, much louder.

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biochemistry
Premium
join:2003-05-09
92361

Surprised?

It is only a matter of time before a man shows his true colors.
--
Unicorns! Show ponies! Where's the beef?!
pandora
Premium
join:2001-06-01
Outland
kudos:2
Reviews:
·ooma
·Google Voice
·Comcast
·Future Nine Corp..

Re: Surprised?

said by biochemistry:

It is only a matter of time before a man shows his true colors.

My belief is people don't mind being lied to. We just mind finding out we've been lied to. Once he as sufficient power, he can continue to lie, while doing whatever the industry wants.
--
Congress could mess up a one piece jigsaw puzzle.

FCCplans

@204.45.134.x

Re: Surprised?

Encouraging more competitors so that every household has access to a few ISPs instead of 1 or 2 is the way to go. Regulating prices, caps, net neutrality is only treating the symptoms and not the underlying cause - lack of competition. Wheeler claims he will try to create competition and not just treat symptoms of lack of competition. How the FCC plans to do that will be interesting.
xexx

join:2004-09-03
Aledo, TX

Re: Surprised?

There will never be competition without disruptive technologies.
WhatNow
Premium
join:2009-05-06
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

Re: Surprised?

Right if the big companies will not afford to build FTTH with maybe two competitors how do you expect a startup to build a network. The only way you will get competition is to have a single dumb fiber pipe in the neighborhoods and then let companies compete by attaching to ends of the dark fibers.

n2jtx

join:2001-01-13
Glen Head, NY

FCC

Friendly to Corporate Contributions
mpellegrini

join:2009-02-22
Tacoma, WA

Re: FCC

+1.

Basically the consumers are screwed. Gotta love the American political greed system.

gaforces
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

join:2002-04-07
Santa Cruz, CA

1 edit

Unregulated

They do what they waont, push push push to see what they can get away with since there is no focus of legislation to work from the fcc is like a ship without a rudder.
--
Let them eat FIBER!
caps620

join:2009-01-18
Central NJ

Another politician .....

Richard Jordan as the National Security Advisor in The Hunt for Red October movie ….. “I’m a politician which means I’m a cheat and a liar and when I’m not kissing babies I’m stealing their lollypops”

ieolus
Support The Clecs

join:2001-06-19
Danbury, CT

Re: Another politician .....

Most self-aware politician ever. Too bad he wasn't real.
--
"Speak for yourself "Chadmaster" - lesopp
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO

Strike Two

Well this is the second strike against him.

First one was when the industry applauded his nomination. That there is a sure tell on any poker face as to what is about to happen, and we are the suckers.

Second one was of course his convoluted statements which speak of competition but then mentions the support of the very things that are a direct result of the lack of competition.

We will have to see what his actual actions are, not his words, to see if this guy is a strike out or not.

Twaddle

@charter.com

Just another Telecom Industry lackey

This POS is showing his true colors; it is now apparent that he is just another bought and paid for Federal employee being whored out to Corporate America.

ChiTown

@74.63.112.x

Re: Just another Telecom Industry lackey

said by Twaddle :

This POS is showing his true colors; it is now apparent that he is just another bought and paid for Federal employee being whored out to Corporate America.

Too soon to jump to that conclusion. Let's see what he does 1st before condemning him.
xthepeoplesx

join:2013-10-21

Re: Just another Telecom Industry lackey

Considering he was one of cable and telco lobbyists and raised 700,000$ for Obamas campaign... yea I think we can.
WhatNow
Premium
join:2009-05-06
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

Re: Just another Telecom Industry lackey

Henry II thought Thomas Becket would do what ever Henry wanted but Becket took the job as Archbishop of Canterbury seriously. He may be a lobbyist in sheep's clothing or a pain in the rear to the industry. As a lobbyist he knows how they think. Will he be their friend or pull the rug out from under them. Give him a chance to show his colors.
old_wiz_60

join:2005-06-03
Bedford, MA
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS

How can anyone expect him to..

do anything except what his telco/cableco overlords tell him to do? He's still basically a shill for the telco/cableco and consumers are at the bottom of his priority list.

I'm sure he has a highly paying job waiting for him when he leaves the FCC as long as he makes the majority of his decisions in favor of the industry and against consumers.

Bribery works wonders all over washington; Congress, The FCC, the DOJ,and the SCOTUS. It's just that these days they don't dare to use the right word.

notWheeler

@cox.net

sign it

WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Remove Thomas Wheeler from the FCC
Thomas Wheeler is already failing the American People as FCC Chairman.

Creating an Internet where ISP's can charge content providers like NetFlix, YouTube or Facebook for prioritized access to make their services function is a destructive model for internet users.

Thomas Wheeler's comments this week show that he is more interested in lining the pockets of his previous employers, the cable and wireless industry, than in the general interest of the American citizen is not conducive to a free and innovative internet.

Created: Dec 04, 2013