So Wheeler Won One … Ready for the Appeal?

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: So Wheeler Won One … Ready for the Appeal?

Ok. Tom “Wheels Coming Off” Wheeler won big in court last week.  The internet (small letter) is a utility (scary word).  Congratulations to the President, too.  But methinks the fat lady is still a good ways off as AT&T et al wax indignant about what they see as a “taking” of private services.

Of course, the almost inevitable appeal will take awhile.  My guess: If AT&T plus the relevant association want to appeal to the whole Court for an en banc decision, they’ve got 45 days.  I think it is more likely they’ll appeal within the requisite 90 days to the Supreme Court, which might or might not take it. If they do, we won’t see a decision until 2020. Our friend Steve Effros thinks the Supremes might -- might -- defer to the agency and its “experts” and just ignore it.  Still, as Effros points out, we have an interesting situation with an almost fully dysfunctional Congress and a woefully out of date Telecommunications Act.  Might the Court want to examine what that means?  Or not?

If this or if that, it’ll all take awhile.  Which is why the markets haven’t reacted much.  For now.

Meanwhile, as the legal world drags on, let’s take a closer look at two other Federal Confusion Commission initiatives … sort of.  One is written into a merger okay; the other is, indeed, an attempt to rewrite all of the rules of video distribution in a backhanded manner.

So the FCC ok’d Charter’s acquisitions … with a clause mandating Charter overbuild a million or so TV households someday soon (which was a great song; but sure is a questionable government edict).  Is this even legal?  To be sure, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge says he won’t just go after nearby cable companies, he’ll target telcos instead.  But most telcos have already overbuilt cable systems.  So, who’s he really going to target?  And, anyone who has ever looked at the economics of actually building infrastructure is probably readying stock downgrades the second Charter picks a target.

Then there’s that other bit of governmental meddling in the marketplace without a real excuse: The set-top box conundrum that just keeps drumming.  If it weren’t for Trump, this alone might make more of us Republicans!  (Don’t hold your breath for a GOP intervention in Cleveland.  It really seems like the entire GOP has simply done an Elvis and left the building.)

Random Notes

So Amazon sells Comcast subscriptions … and now Walmart has a “cut the cable” promotion.  Amusing.

Apple set out to “reinvent television” as an OTT Apple TV service, but couldn’t sign any reasonable carriage deals with networks … so Apple announced last week it will stream DISH’s Sling (with an improved Siri; that at least makes sense).  Now, that’s a bit of a comedown.  Throwing in the towel to DISH is something new.

When virtual reality and/or augmented reality truly arrive, bet it’ll come via OTT… one of the existing or somebody new.

Every new “thing” needs critical mass to succeed.  So take a look at and wonder how it’ll do; sure looks cool and brings social media to TV/OTT listings.  Ditto for Layer3; which looks like TV for serious TV viewers.

Just don’t look to the FCC to fix your needs.

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