FCC Myths! Charter on the Prowl! Mergers? What Mergers? – Paul S. Maxwell

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: FCC Myths! Charter on the Prowl! Mergers? What Mergers? – Paul S. Maxwell

My new book “The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media” continues! Read the latest chapter here .

Comment : OK, I’ve downloaded the nearly 400 pages of dense DC language from the Federal Confusion Commission defining how it will regulate Internet Service Providers in the USA. Now I have to read it; but I’d rather go skiing. So, that’s what I’ll do.

Meanwhile, the FCC also released a sort of mea culpa (DOC-332486A1.docx at fcc.gov) that attempts to assuage any fears of overt, intrusive regulations. Taking the tack of “myth” vs. “fact” the three-page document (I can read that while putting on my boots; there are only five weeks left of the ski season) purports to debunk most criticism made before the release of the disputed rules. (New Washington way of doing things … denounce before you know what’s in it!) This little document cherry picks the negative fears by simply denying the FCC will (1) regulate the internet like a utility; (2) regulate retail broadband rates or require filing tariffs for approval; (3) increase bills and/or raise taxes (no mention of passing along regulatory costs); (4) allow the government to take over the Internet; (5) allow other governments to take over the Internet (that’s up to ICANN); (6) stifle innovation; (7) regulate the Internet of Things or VoIP or VoLTE; (8) slow down the Internet; (9) impose new regulations, and (10) chill innovation.

OK, let’s see, here’s what I think: (1) for now, maybe; (2) not directly; (3) will raise bills because of “transparency” requirements found in #s 7, 8 and 9; (4) isn’t regulating taking over to some degree?; (5) pretty funny; (6) not really, hard to do in USA; (7) only if reporting requirements get complicated; (8) won’t do that, but lots of details to be sent to FCC offices; (9) yep; forbear what for how long?, and (10) unlikely.

Not included in my not entirely serious look is the rule that allows for complaints (actually part of #1 as an aside) and then what the FCC decides is “just and reasonable” becomes the law (or rule). The FCC says it is nothing more than a slight extension of a wireless rule that’s been around since ’93 and hasn’t resulted in any real problems.

But, I’m reminded of a conversation between then FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and NCTA chief Kyle McSlarrow at what used to be The Cable Show in LA. Kyle noted that Julius was promising to go easy involving the enforcement of some rule and Kyle mentioned that while he trusted him, he wondered about the next Chairman.

Love to see current Chairman Tom Wheeler respond to current NCTA head Michael Powell (a former FCC Chair) and discuss the concept of ruling via “because we said so.”

In other happenings of note :

Gotta love Charter talking (for months without a leak) with Newhouse about acquiring Bright House. Any deal could (but might not) add to Charter two of the brightest, experienced cable/broadband executives in the industry (Nomi and Steve).

Think either of those bigger mergers on the table will actually move forward? Suppose the FCC and the DoJ are just dragging their feet? Any decision will be met with howls of protest, maybe the government folks just want the deals to go away? Or is the California “approval” of the Comcast + TWC deal a pre-run to find out exactly which conditions might apply?

Steve Simmons: Relations between cable ops and their franchising authorities are often contentious … Steve’s ability to get along with city hall is reason enough for this upcoming induction into the Cable Center Hall of Fame. His Simmons Communications did such a good turnaround job in Long Beach, California that when he sold it the Mayor issued a proclamation citing the improvements (the details can be found here). Steve helped found the Entrepreneurs Club which, besides meeting twice a year and listening to some pretty important folks, produced the book “Wired To Win” by Kathi Ann Brown in 2003 (pretty good look at the pioneers of the business). Steve also has worked on the White House staff, been a prof at U. of California and chaired committees overseeing Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (where they could use him again as Andrew Lack has bolted to NBCU). More importantly, he’s written five children’s books.

The 18th Annual Cable Center Hall of Fame dinner is set for Tuesday, May 5th at the Navy Pier (600 East Grand Avenue in Chicago) during the INTX (nee: The Cable Show) that week.

In an almost 50-year career writing and reporting on media, Paul S. Maxwell started and/or ran some 45-plus publications ranging from CATV Newsweekly to Colorado Magazine to CableVision to Multichannel News to CableFAX and The BRIDGE Suite of daily newsletters and research publications. In between publishing stints, Maxwell served as an advisor and/or consultant to a number of major media companies and media start-ups including running a unit of MCI and managing a partnership of TCI and McGraw-Hill.

Send any and all criticisms, suggestions, rants, threats, corrections, etc. to him at cablemax@mac.com. He has a new Web site coming soon!

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