In This Incoherent Part of the Trump World, Rules Be Damned

By Paul S. Maxwell Paul Maxwell Report Archives

I can already hear it:  "Bye, bye, Miss American Net; drove my Chevy to the levee on a 3-to-2 bet!"  Come Thursday afternoon, December 14, the Federal Confusion Commission will be certain to vote to dismantle net neutrality.  The day before the FCC announced its intention to do that, the Department of Justice filed to block AT&T from acquiring Time Warner.  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is taking orders from the (wannabe) King -- just like the Department of Justification’s head of the pro-trust division, Makan Delrahim.  On the one hand, Pai is moving to allow unfettered growth by ISPs -- and on the same hand allowing for media consolidation.  Meanwhile, the DoJ is moving to block AT&T’s acquisition of TW saying it would be too big.  As The Economist noted last week, the administration is “wishy one day, washy the next.”

As so it is that the FCC will vote and the lawsuits will be filed.  Lots and lots of lawsuits.  But what might ISPs actually do?  Not much, they say.  The “they” are the big four: AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon.   They have gone on the record extolling the virtues of a net-neutrality wipeout (with some justification, I should add, given the free ride that FANG has been getting).  I’m also certain you can count on the next two biggest (Altice and Cox) to chime in.

Under the rules as currently envisioned, however, the connection companies could do damn near anything by openly publishing their own new rules.  Such rules could block or throttle whomever won’t pay.  That might not go over so bigly, though.

Additionally, there could be slow lanes and fast lanes.  Although, to be clear, there are work-arounds already such as Layer 3 TV’s use of non-open broadband transmission infrastructure coupled and last mile connections (think Layer 3 plus cable connections).

There’s much more to this story than net neutrality.  It is really setting up the coming commercial collision of two giant collections of enterprises: the connectors versus the edge players.  It will be the ISPs against the tech giants.  To be clear, a lot of programmers will be uncertain about what to do next … for example, will OTT challengers get a new bill?

Meanwhile, the tech giants will be facing another challenge: regulations! First from European regulators.  Then from American.  You can see the momentum growing everyday in the headlinesThe Economist even has a word for it: “techlash.”

As Dan Primack, referencing the DoJ suit, puts it in Axios’ ProRata, this is a “BFD:  Because big tech companies like Facebook, Netflix and Google -- which provide both media content and distribution at a scale that dwarfs a merged ATT/TW -- should be absolutely petrified.  DoJ may officially be suing a legacy telco, but its complaint is doubling as a Trojan Horse at the gates of Silicon Valley.”

Random Notes

Things just get more and more confusing, especially when thinking about what you might want to watch on whatever device is at hand or on the wall.  Well, give a hand to recode.  They've got a nice chart about what channel is on which OTT service.  It includes an up-to-date mix of services even including the just-launched Philo.

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