FCC Office of Inspector General Increases Staff to Deal With Fraud, Abuse, Waste, Theft, Drug Use, Time Stealing, Porn Watching.... FCC Powder Springs Georgia HFDF Watch Officer Caught Deliberately Interfering on 14.313 MHz.... FCC Columbia Maryland HFDF Watch Officer Caught Downloading Child Pornography.... FCC Employees Caught Stealing Time Again and Again.... FCC Employees Caught Falsifying Time Sheets.... FCC Employee Caught Scheduling Craigslist Sex Trysts.... FCC Employees Caught Coming in Late / Leaving Early.... FCC Enforcement Bureau Eviscerated.... DHS Officer Reports Karol Madera (VE7KFM) for Stalking, Pedophilia, and Sexually Harassing 11 Year Old Girl.... David Tolassi (W4BHV) Jailed for Beating His Wife, Assault, Battery, Criminal Trespass.... Canadian Military Police and Saanich Legion Confirm Karol Madera (VE7KFM) is Not a Navy Vet.... Karol Madera (VE7KFM) Incites Murder.... Karol Madera Inspires Several Hoaxes.... FCC Agents Issue Advisory Regarding Canadian Fraud.... Donald Anderson, Convicted Felon and Child Rapist Says Karol Madera "Full Blown Alcoholic" & "Deplorable Homophobe with Dangerous Views" & "Engaged in Hate Speech".... Whitney Veon Tritch (N3ZV) Liar and Military Fraud.... Claims Combat Disability... Todd Daugherty (N9OGL) Guilty of Criminal Harassment and Threatening to Blow Up Consolidated Communications.... Karol Madera and Mike Adams (AE4FB) Perpetrate Shooting Hoax.... Karol Madera Engaged in Hate Propaganda Since 2005.... B'Nai Brith Frustrated by Canadian Crown Counsel's Failure to Prosecute Karol Madera's Hate Propaganda.... FCC Investigated by Congress and Government Accounting Office... DoJ Refuses to Assist FCC in State's Rights Debacle... FCC Enforcement Bureau -- Forty Four Fired & Eleven Offices Closed as FCC Chief Realizes... They Were Useless !!

Home Terms Contact & Tips Karol F. Madera History of VEKFM KFM in Court KFM Audio Pics of KFM Studios Friends of KFM K1MAN FB Your Email Archive Video

FEATURED: Waste, fraud, and abuse endemic at the FCC -- Porn addicts, thieves, liars, dimwits, thieves, layabouts, and jammers. See this page, and our extensive archives.

Don't forget to see the pages containing numerous accounts of the mentally ill pedophiles and criminal licensees wasting our taxpayer's valuable spectrum.

Latest Issue for 2016

Define 'neutral?'

FCC Chief Admits Staff Members are Clueless & Depending on their Advice is Risky

In a May 25, 2016 letter to Mr. Joshua Babb of Maricopa, AZ, the FCC advised him that he should have known better than to listen to an FCC staff member regarding a licensing issue. The problem is, Babb took the FCC staffers advice and depended on that staffer to know what he was talking about. Silly Mr. Babb, it's well established FCC staffers are clueless and uninformed! In other words, ignore the staff and rely on your own interpretation of the rules, and you'll be much better off. Excellent advice.

Roger S. Noel, Chief of the WTB Wireless Division writes: "...Erroneous staff advice is not grounds for reconsideration. Licensees are obligated to know the Commission's rules. It is well-established that an applicant acts on staff advice at his own risk."

Roger S. Noel also cited two cases; one from 1995 and one from 1997, proving that it is 'well established' that licensees should not rely on FCC staff opinions or advice. Read the letter and note the highlighted portions. Roger S. Noel is hereby awarded our coveted 'Most Honest FCC Bureau Chief' award, for 2016.

U.S. House Appropriations Committee Plans to Gut the FCC

The committee has released a plan to cut the FCC's budget by a further 18 percent and block the agency's ability to enforce certain rules and to adopt certain new regulations "The bill contains $315 million for the FCC - a cut of $69 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $43 million below the [agency's] request," according to an announcement by the House Appropriations Committee.

"The legislation prohibits the FCC from implementing the net neutrality order until certain court cases are resolved, requires newly proposed regulations to be made publicly available for 21 days before the Commission votes on them, prohibits the FCC from regulating broadband rates, and requires the FCC to refrain from further activity of the recently proposed set-top box rule until a study is completed," the announcement added.

It would require the FCC to commission "peer-reviewed" studies at an institution of higher education. Another 90-day commenting period would be needed, followed by a 180-day waiting period during which the FCC could take no action.

The timing of all this is aimed at exceeding the remainder of Tom Wheeler's term. Technically, Wheeler's slated to leave in November 2018. However, it is customary for FCC chairs to depart soon after the president who appointed them leaves office, at which time the controversial FCC enforcement bureau's leader, Travis LeBlanc is also expected to depart the agency, if not sooner.

Why the FCC's "Privacy" Grab is a Horrible Idea

In order to enforce consumer complaints that ISPs are violating the FCC's proposed privacy rules, the agency will need expansive access to data traffic, not only of the complaining consumer but of other consumers. Providing technical back-doors for governments, however, is precisely the outcome Apple, WhatsApp, and other participants in the internet ecosystem are spending so much political capital to avoid. If history is any guide, it's clear that once government agencies gain access to personal information, the likelihood of that data leaking elsewhere - not just to the NSA, but also the IRS, the INS, and other regulators - is nearly 100%.

So why would rational consumers who value both their privacy and the effective customization of their online life want another regulatory 'cop on the beat' - especially an unqualified cop, already under scrutiny for leaks, at a time when concerns over government information gathering are reshaping the technical architecture of the Web and mobile devices specifically to limit their access? It's an issue that both consumers and businesses should be paying closer attention to. Read more about the FCC's latest overreaching power grab from Larry Downes, at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy.

DC Court of Appeals Delivers Massive Smackdown to FCC

Congress Warns -- FCC Cannot Shirk Statutory Responsibilities and Cannot Cut Corners on Process

"This is yet another unsurprising chapter in the FCC's miserable history on the media ownership rules," Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, said in a statement. "We have warned the Commission repeatedly over the past three Congresses that it cannot shirk its statutory responsibility and it cannot cut corners on good process."

The court said, "Although courts owe deference to agencies, we also recognize that, '[a]t some point, we must lean forward from the bench to let an agency know, in no uncertain terms, that enough is enough.'"

"I am pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has struck down the FCC's unlawful attempt to sharply restrict television stations' ability to enter into joint sales agreements," said FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who said he warned (two years ago) that the FCC's methods violated the law. In this proceeding, Pai's prediction was proven correct.

Walden also excoriated the FCC on its frivolous and illegal headline grabbing actions and tilting at windmills, saying "It is a sad statement on FCC leadership that the agency must be taken to court in order to force it to comply with the plain reading of its statute," said Walden. "[T]his entire process was an unnecessary waste of time and money and taxpayers are footing the bill. This committee will continue its longstanding effort to work on reforming FCC processes and force the FCC to address the years of compounded bad habits that have made it an institution that sees itself as above the law. Instead of tilting after windmills on ISP privacy and other headline-grabbing issues du jour, the FCC should do the work that Congress has assigned."

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, said "Today's decision was a well-deserved rebuke for the FCC," "The FCC has never been well grounded in reality, under Democrats or Republicans, but the problem has grown far, far worse under Tom Wheeler -- and the FCC's outdated regulations have become more and more destructive as the Internet continues to transform the media marketplace."

MMTC president and CEO Kim Keenan praised the court and noted that the court of appeals for the third circuit has given the FCC 60 days to come up with the timetable for defining the term "eligible entity" as it applies to minority ownership, or it would impose one.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai praised the court decision as well, saying it was "yet more evidence that the FCC is now an agency unmoored from the rule of law."

Read more about this massive rebuke of the FCC's illegal practices, by John Eggerton.

Governors ask FCC to Allow Jamming

Drug dealers and gang kingpins use contraband cellphones to conduct business and sometimes to order the murder of rivals outside prison walls. The solution is simple. Allow prisons to jam cell signals. Problem solved. However, the FCC isn't known for its common sense solutions or its quick thinking. Now ten governors want the Federal Communications Commission to give states more autonomy to apply technology that can stop prison inmates from using smuggled cellphones. While the letter doesn't explicitly say so, what the governors want is permission to jam cellphone signals behind bars. "The FCC should act to streamline regulatory review processes and allow states to implement cost-efficient technology in prisons, where the installation of such technology will not sacrifice the safety of the general public," reads the letter, which was proposed by SC Governor Nikki Haley, and also signed by governors from Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah. Expect the murders to continue, along with business as usual. The FCC is more concerned with 'regulating the Internet' and 'freeing the set-top box' which is already dead and dying.

FCC Leaks Examined by US House and Inspector General

The FCC Enforcement Bureau as well as other bureaus at the FCC, have operated like a leaky sieve for at least 20 years, however, the Inspector General and US Representatives are just now figuring it out, this week.

Chairman Wheeler maintains he has broad authority to release nonpublic information unilaterally, "in apparent contradiction of the plain language of FCC rules," committee spokesman Frederick Hill said. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, John Thune, recieved a letter from short-timer Tom Wheeler at the FCC, who wrote "I intend to fully cooperate with this investigation and look forward to its findings." Read more about the FCC's back room bargaining that scuttles bilateral agreements behind closed doors.

FCC Privacy Rules - Or - How to Lock the Barn Door After the Horse is Stolen

The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) asymmetric approach to internet privacy is likely to create a false sense of security among web users. Despite stringent FCC privacy regulation of internet service providers (ISPs), consumers' information will enjoy little protection when they are interacting on social media sites, shopping online or surfing the web. In other words, the problem isn't with ISPs, the problem is with sites that scrape data, then share or sell it with unscrupulous business 'partners' for a fee. As usual, the FCC is silent and or clueless about the real problem. The FCC's approach is like locking the front door but leaving the back door open and the windows unlocked, while on vacation.

House Spending Bill Intends to Hobble Regulatory Overreach at FCC

The House Appropriations Committee are pushing a spending bill that would temporarily block a slate of controversial regulations at the Federal Communications Commission. The House majority are almost universally against the FCC's net neutrality rules approved last year, which reclassify internet service providers under strict common carrier regulations. Under the bill, the FCC would not be able to complete its rules until six months after a study is complete, likely pushing it past President Obama's term. Read more about the FCC spending Bill and its intended consequences.

Appeals Court Torpedoes FCC - Derelict in Duty

"Today's decision is a stern rebuke of an FCC that has often put Americans at a disadvantage" according to Representative John Shimkus of Illinois. Commissioner Ajit Pai said the FCC had been derelict in its duty to keep the rules current, and the court indicated it may invalidate broadcaster ownership rules completely unless the FCC acts soon. Read more about the FCC's latest failure in court.

Roku blasts FCC Proposal to Unlock the Box

Fundamentally, the FCC is trying to fix a market that isn't broken. Products like Roku, AppleTV and Amazon's Fire TV have already 'unlocked' the video market and consumers have more choices and options than they know what to do with.

More than ever, people are watching TV away from their living rooms which has forced the MVPDs to adjust by creating apps like the ones we are starting to see on Roku. The FCC's new plan would erect new roadblocks in the way of this innovation, stunt competition, and ultimately hurt customers. The FCC should stop trying to 'help' where it clearly isn't wanted or needed. Read Roku's op-ed on how the FCC's rules actually harm, rather than help consumers.

FCC Kept 'Obamaphone' Fraud Under Wraps Until After Vote to Expand Wasteful Program

According to FCC Commissioner Pai, Commissioners were instructed not to reveal a multi-million dollar fine until the day after a controversial vote to expand the government's wasteful welfare scam known as Lifeline. "Commissioners were told that the Notice of Apparent Liability could not be released or publicly discussed until April 1, 2016, conveniently one day after the Commission was scheduled to expand the Lifeline program to broadband," Pai wrote. "That's not right." Lifeline has been misadministered by the FCC for years, yet it keeps growing, despite being riddled with fraud and abuse.

According to Commissioner Pai, the order to remain mum about the latest fine had the effect of preventing public knowledge about widespread fraud in the Lifeline program ahead of a contentious vote on expanding it, despite persistent, ongoing concerns about the lack of internal safeguards. "The phones are not, in fact, 'free' - they are financed by a special tax paid by all paying cell phone customers, who are largely unaware the Lifeline program exists. The program is already a welfare-state juggernaut, all but impervious to reform no matter how much waste and fraud is discovered, and the Lifeline expansion aims to make 55 million people dependent upon it for "free" or heavily subsidized Internet access. Pai also explained that Americans' phone taxes have gone up 60 percent over the last seven years to finance this and other programs, "and that's before the FCC expanded this program -- there is no telling how high that tax is going to go in the future."

Senate Hearing Highlights FCC's Failed Processes

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee took aim Wednesday at the FCC's network neutrality Open Internet order and ex parte contacts in a hearing on The Administrative State: An Examination of Federal Rulemaking" where Senator Ron Johnson used the FCC as an example of the federal regulatory overreach. Four of the five witnesses were of like mind that there was currently federal regulatory overreach, with the scope of agency regulations far broader than Congress had intended. Former FCC Associate General Counsel, Randolph May, said the President's involvement undermined the agency's independence and the public's confidence in its integrity. Even the lone dissenter, Robert Weissman, conceded there were severe problems with the regulatory process, specifically delay of regulatory decisions that impedes business decisions and hurts consumers. He said another problem was weak enforcement and the revolving door of agency officials that move to industry. May also said there was certainly the appearance that the agency's independence was jeopardized, and on the basis of political considerations, not its expertise. George Washington University Law Professor, Jonathan Turley, said nobody could believe the net neutrality process was a good system given the "total disregard" for the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. Senator Johnson flatly stated it "was obvious they weren't acting independently."

Thanks to John Eggerton, Washington Bureau Chief, Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News

FCC Rules - from Tragedy to Farce

Any day now, the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on the Federal Communications Commission's regulatory coup over the Internet, commonly known as net neutrality. And not a moment too soon. Because the FCC's rules are quickly descending from tragedy to farce.

Netflix demanded that Internet service providers (ISP) be prohibited from blocking or degrading data traffic. The threats were largely imaginary few if any cases of such behavior had ever been reported. So sinister was the possibility, however, that it required a new regulatory regime for the digital economy.

Last month, however, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Netflix has been throttling, or capping, data rates (and thus video quality) for customers of some mobile carriers but not others. And that it has been doing so for at least five years, including the period when it was lobbying the White House and FCC. Netflix's epic hypocrisy exposes nearly every deficiency of net neutrality that critics have warned against for the last 15 years.

Before The Wall Street Journal asked Netflix if it was the source of the mobile slowdown, the company was content to let the world believe that the poor quality was the fault of AT&T and Verizon. This wasn't the first instance of Netflix sanctimony. In 2014, Netflix in sensational fashion charged ISPs with blocking its traffic at interconnection points. More than any other single incident, this narrative provided the momentum for the regulation of the Internet. Except it was false. After looking at traffic patterns, it became clear that the poor performance was due to Netflix's own routing decisions. It was a manufactured publicity stunt, which led to the downfall of one of the nation's most successful economic policies of the last few decades. In the next few days or weeks, a federal court may begin the restoration of American Internet freedom.

Bret Swanson is president of Entropy Economics LLC and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Read more about the FCC's increasing imposition of farcical rules.

House Passes Bill to Deny FCC Ability to Regulate Rates While Senate Fast-Tracks Vote

The House has passed the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act (H.R. 2666), sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois. The vote was 241 to 173. The bill bars the Federal Communications Commission from regulating prices charged for broadband Internet service. Kinzinger said blocking the FCC from attempting to regulate broadband service would preserve a free market online, continuing a tradition that has helped the Internet spur economic growth and job creation. The Senate majority leader has placed the bill directly on the senate calendar for a vote, which is expected to pass. Unsurprisingly, President Obama has threatened a veto. Meanwhile, Tom Wheeler, who bundled at least $700,000 to Obama in campaign contributions, whom some have unkindly called Obama's puppet and sycophant, is expected to continue to lobby for more taxpayer giveaways and more government control, in all areas under the purview of the FCC.

The Privacy Crucible

"What happens to FCC privacy enforcement when Tom Wheeler and Travis LeBlanc move on to greener pastures? What happens when the new FCC chairman (and there will be a new chairman in 2017), questions the FCC's claim to privacy jurisdiction or even Title II? Will the current engagement with privacy end with a tryst with Travis?

These are among the questions being whispered in the legal and policy galleries as the FCC reaches for power patently beyond its grasp. The new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Broadband Consumer Privacy rests, many argue, on a tenuous accretion of authority via Title II and a legal predicate accepted by few in industry. To say that its privacy jurisdiction is well-grounded would be balderdash, although the FCC goes to great lengths to overcompensate for the possibility that its fundamental premise could be undermined on appeal.

But alas, as John Adams advised in his 1774 seventh "Novanglus" letter, "we are a government of laws, not of men." So it does little good today to speculate whether the FCC can deputize itself or even enlarge its coasts on privacy enforcement. Nor can we direct the FCC to defer to the experts at the FTC because they wear the whole armor. Only Congress and the courts have the power to save the republic from a regulatory coup that has been raised under cloak of consumer protection. In the privacy crucible, there are many battles yet to be joined, and this one may be extinguished with the short passage of time."

Adonis Hoffman is chairman of Business in the Public Interest and an adjunct professor of Communication, Culture and Technology at Georgetown University. A former FCC and congressional lawyer, he is the author of Doing Good: The New Rules of Corporate Responsibility.

Courts and Legislature Will Prune FCC's Quest for Power

Within the next week, the DC Circuit Court will rule on a challenge to the FCC's net neutrality regulations by entrepreneurs and established Internet Service Providers. It's likely that the court will prune the regulations and in so doing, curtail the agency's quest for power. If the DC court doesn't, we can expect an appeal to the Supreme Court. Likewise, the Congressional Commerce Committee will vote on removing the FCC's intentions to regulate rates and to expand Obama's socialist handouts to the telephone and Internet sphere. In 2011, FCC issued the USF Transformation Order, whereby it adopted funding reforms so that the program could support both telephone and broadband service, and 'capped' the program at $4.5 billion annually, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

It's unfortunate that we have to rely on the courts to micromanage regulatory agencies, but agency behavior leaves us little choice. While the FCC was established by Congress in 1934 to bring technical expertise to the task of managing communication markets, under Chairman Tom Wheeler's direction it has become overly engrossed in politics.

It's likely that Chairman Wheeler and his inner circle simply don't realize the damage they've done to communication markets. A detailed examination of their regulations finds significant gaps in its understanding of the way the Internet works.

So we depend on the court to save the nation's economy from politics, and indeed to save the FCC from itself. I hope that the court delivers the message that regulatory agencies should stick to their knitting rather than seeking to influence election outcomes.

Richard Bennett is a Visiting Fellow, at the American Entrprise Institute Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy.

FCC Rules for Set Top Boxes - Another Misguided Blunder

When unleashed for lawful, limited, and thoughtful purposes, the federal government has extraordinary power to do good. But when it exercises its power with little purpose and little thought - and possibly limited legality, the federal government is unlikely to do much if any good. Once again, the Federal Communications Commission has entered into unnecessary and wasteful rulemaking. This time, in addition to mandating the use of outdated technology, the agency would also countenance the theft of intellectual property. A future-looking agency would be working with industry to eliminate the boxes, not forcing consumers to keep them, while allowing competitors to clone the intellectual property of competitors.

The FCC's plan would allow these third parties to monetize the individual viewing habits of the subscribers, which they cannot do now. This is one of the more outrageous examples in recent years of a company trying to get what it wants through regulation since it cannot obtain its objectives in the marketplace. Think 'Google.'

Consider the example of "set-top boxes." If you are like most Americans, you don't think about them much, if it all. The Federal Communications Commission thinks about them often. Therein lies the problem. The FCC wants to end proprietary boxes from places like Comcast, Time Warner, Dish, and Direct TV, which protect consumers by limiting behavioral tracking with enforced FCC privacy policies - that is, the lists of shows and advertisements consumers watch are not sold to 3rd parties. Instead, the FCC wants to make all boxes 'generic' - which opens the way for Apple, Amazon, Google, TiVo, and Roku to track consumer behavior and to add targeted ads to programming. The latter do not have FCC enforced privacy policies because they are considered 'edge' providers.

Consumers would not be better off. The range of video options would be diminished, and the security and privacy currently afforded by set-top boxes would be lost. Subscribers could be subjected to the invasion of their privacy through unrequested targeted advertising. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai noted that existing regulations on set-top boxes have raised prices and cost Americans billions of dollars in additional fees. The regulations have also increased energy consumption by 500 million kilowatt hours each year and failed to produce robust competition in the set-top box market.

Government mandates on technology are typically out of date even before they are enforced. Ultimately, the strongest argument the FCC has to impose new regulations on set-top boxes is that it claims that it legally can do so. Perhaps. The extraordinary unbundling of set-top boxes is beyond what is clearly required or contemplated by statute. Government power exercised without good judgment is a recipe for disaster.

See the DailyDot for more about the FCC's misguided bureaucracy from Thomas Schatz, the president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

See Forbes.com for more about the FCC's failed policies from Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Senators Unhappy With FCC

There were some testy moments in the Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee Tuesday. Chairman John Boozman (R-Ark.) wondered out loud how Congress can justify giving money to an agency that doesn't follow congressional policy.

"Why should we provide you more resources if you're not going to follow the laws that we write and expect to be followed," he asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler during a hearing.

Industry participants on and off Capitol Hill are concerned that the FCC is ignoring the law. Boozman seemed to channel much of that frustration on Tuesday. He said he finds it "troubling to see what appears to be an obvious disregard of the intent of language on joint sales agreements included in last year's omnibus appropriations bill." "You and your staff knew clearly the intention of Congress. Your staff helped craft the language and provided technical assistance," Boozman said. Boozman also asked Wheeler why he has ignored the laws so far despite "strong bipartisan support" and "Congress' clear intent."

Since the enactment of the omnibus, Boozman said the commission has worked around congressional intent by deploying its merger review authority to make companies to get rid of long-held joint sales agreements. Pai reminded the committee that 12 powerful senators sent Wheeler a letter expressing their concerns.

The letter said that the senators were "extremely disturbed" that the commission was forcing companies to terminate their joint sales agreements in connection with broadcast license transfers. The senators implied that the FCC "undermined Congress' clear intent to preserve JSAs lawfully executed" in 2014.

That letter bore the signature of Boozman along with big names including Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and the Senate's No. 3 Democrat Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate's GOP leadership, joined with Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) on the letter.

"At a time when folks in Washington can agree on very little, it is telling when a powerful bipartisan group of lawmakers has found common cause in taking on the agency's lawlessness in this matter," Pai said of the letter.

Read more about the Senate's scorching rebuke of FCC lawlessness.

New FCC Regs Will Stifle Business Broadband & Kill Jobs

WASHINGTON, DC - A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to take over pricing of business broadband services could eliminate up to 43,560 jobs, cut economic output by $3.4 billion over a five-year period and prevent 67,000 buildings from getting access to fiber, according to a study by Hal Singer, principal of Economists, Inc. and adjunct professor with Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.

Read more about the latest implementation of job killing policies at the FCC.

FCC Rigs Free Market in Socialist Takeover

In just the last year alone, the FCC manipulated markets by rigging the rules of an auction of wireless airwaves to discourage open bidding and reclassifying the Internet as an outdated telecommunication service under Title II of the Communications Act written in 1934.

"ObamaNet," as we have termed this overreach of the government, is the Obama administration's next Obamacare; a socialist-flavored "answer" whereby government edicts outweigh real innovation. Under the guise of spreading internet access to the remaining 10 percent of the U.S. population, Internet Service Providers would be required under these new rules to seek FCC approval on any "new products, business models, data-traffic operations, and more."

And if you think the ISPs are going to eat the costs of the additional accountants and attorneys needed to wade through the 682 pages and 987 rule sections, think again. Those fees, just as has been done with the telephone industry, will be passed on to you, the consumer.

Read more analysis of the FCC's overreach by Drew Johnson, of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance.

Who Needs the FCC?

In the publication 'National Affairs', Mercatus research fellow Brent Skorup demonstrates that the discretion that Congress has afforded the FCC has undermined, rather than advanced, the public interest. In this era of growing competition and innovation, the FCC's authority should be increasingly curtailed, if not eliminated outright. The FCC's expansive regulatory authority has led to what one scholar termed a regulatory 'kludgeocracy' - an expansive system, updated only incrementally to deal with new issues, that is both opaque and prone to failure. For decades, the FCC's ad hoc processes have harmed competition and weakened First Amendment rights. The FCC harms competition by compartmentalizing industries, delaying new technologies, and politicizing allocation of spectrum licenses. The FCC also threatens free speech through architectural censorship and government pressures on speech.

While the FCC pursues some worthwhile goals, it often arrives at either the wrong policy for achieving those goals or the right policy years too late. Reforming communications law will require two major policy changes including targeted, transparent subsidies, and reducing the FCC's authority. Neither the FCC nor the federal courts have put meaningful limits on what the FCC can do with its 'public interest' authority. In practice, this vague standard shields the agency from legal accountability, as it can always point to this standard when justifying regulations under court review.

The FCC uses its regulatory authority carte blanche to enact a bewildering maze of regulations, creating a mindset of confusion in the most innovative sectors of the US economy. Some of the FCC's functions are duplicative of functions already served by other agencies, like the FTC. The costs of its regulations include higher cable and cellphone bills for consumers and reduced freedom of speech. The federal courts are clogged with costly lawsuits related to fighting inane and unconstitutional 'rules' promulgated by policiticized lobbyist hacks on an industry-to-government-jobs carousel. The media and the country would be much better off with a streamlined FCC that does a few things well, rather than a myriad of things poorly.

Brent Skorup at The Mercatus Center provides a rational argument for slashing the power and influence of today's FCC.

Court Rebuffs FCC's Latest Antics Three Times in Three Weeks

"Over the past three weeks alone, the FCC's decisions have been rebuffed three times in court; rejected in extraordinary fashion by a large, bipartisan group of Senators; and rebuked sharply by Members of the House from both parties. At some point, even this agency has to acknowledge that the law isn't an invitation to semantic chicanery and good government isn't discretionary." FCC Commissioner Pai laments poor government at the FCC.

FCC: No understanding... no expertise

"[T]he FCC is doubling down on its misguided and broken Net Neutrality decision by imposing troubling and conflicting 'privacy' rules on Internet companies, as well as freelancing on topics like data security and data breach that are not even mentioned in the statute. While I will read the document, this direction does not surprise me given this agency's reckless approach to an important topic, especially where it clearly lacks expertise, personnel, or understanding." FCC Commissioner O'Rielly discusses the FCC's lack of understanding and expertise.

Scandals Illustrate Need for Regime Change

Leading up to the elections in November, Americans have a choice. They can choose Hillary, who will preside over a third Obama term, where a leftist bureaucratic oligarchy from the executive branch makes decisions for the rest of us, while pandering to the 'special interest du jour,' or an alternative candidate, rooted in the Constitution, with respect for all three branches of government. Reviewing the past 8 years, the choice seems clear.

Who can forget the IRS scandal, which is the latest scandal to be confirmed in the outgoing administrative regime. Along with the Fast and Furious scandal , the Benghazi scandal, and the Immigration scandal, not to mention the V.A. scandal(s), we can now add the FCC's Light Squared scandal, and the FCC's prison calling rates blunder, and the big Kahuna, the FCC's Net Neutrality scandal where FCC Chairman Wheeler stands accused of pandering to White House interests, in violation of the FCC's mandate as an 'independent' agency, not to mention exceeding the FCC's statutory authority. The FCC's porn scandal was bad enough, where the Washington Times discovered employees at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spending as much as eight hours per week watching porn, after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the investigative records pertaining to the emerging scandal. Adding insult to injury for American taxpayers, some of the federal employees who got bored at work and watched porn, were actually awarded bonuses. The only bright spot is with respect to clueless FCC field staff, where the FCC can be congratulated for axing 44 overpaid employees in 11 offices, who were either incompetent or underworked, according to an $850,000 consulting study which the FCC has still not officially released to the public. Your government can and should do better. Government should not be in the business of telling people what they should think, say, or believe. Do your part, by voting in November.

The Rise and Fall of the FCC

In the waning days of the Obama administration, Wheeler's FCC has become unhinged from the law, frustrating Congress and leaving the FCC open to embarrassment, ridicule, and a string of legal setbacks.

Already, much of the Chairman's filigreed monument to micromanagement is crumbling under the withering scrutiny of the federal courts, the entirely predictable result of his having built it without adequate legal foundations. Wheeler's palace is proving to be Washington's true house of cards.

The telephone network, the Chairman concluded, meant either the telephone network or any aspect of the Internet the FCC wanted to regulate. All of this was done in short order and under cover of darkness, leaving the entire 300-page order open to attack on procedural grounds. Open Internet; Lifeline; Municipal Broadband; TCPA; Prison Calling Rates; Zero Rate; Set-Top-Box-Technical-Mandates; Special Access; Mobile Auctions... Whether by act of Congress, the courts, or the accelerating pace of technological change, Wheeler's empire is unlikely to stand the test of time. The emperor, it turns out, has no clothes.

With Wheeler's term as Chairman almost certain to end with the next President's election, it will be up to the next Chairman, from whichever party captures the White House, to restore the agency's credibility and the morale of the hard-working engineers, lawyers, and economists who deliver the agency's true and not insignificant contribution to the innovation economy. Read more by Larry Downes, at Forbes.com.

American Hospital Association - FCC Plan Risks Lives

On March 29, the FCC will hold an auction for frequencies near current medical device frequencies in the 600 mHz band which includes Channel 37, a portion of the radio spectrum designated in 2000 for wireless medical telemetry devices, such as heart, blood pressure, respiratory and fetal monitors. Hospitals are terrified that their patients will be negatively affected. The FCC - and Capitol Hill staffers paying close attention to the auction - don't have the knowledge of health care and hospital engineering to fully grasp the fallout of commission's policies, the Hospital Association says. The health staffers in Congress aren't the ones working on FCC policies and vice versa. If something goes wrong and new broadcasters interfere with hospital wireless devices, they say, it will put patient lives at risk. See the AHA statement here.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-ehealth/2016/03/hospitals-fear-fccs-spectrum-auction-213187#ixzz43CRTji4O Follow us: @politico on Twitter | Politico on Facebook

FCC Proposes New Income Redistribution Scheme

Households would get a single $9.25 a month subsidy that would apply to Obamanet or Obamaphone, but not both, unless there's fraud involved, which is typical. The program currently helps about 12 million U.S. households afford landline and mobile phones, according to agency estimates, which are widely acknowledged to be the product of FCC summer interns throwing darts at a board, while high on bath salts. Critics posit that "Not only has the FCC historically done a dismal job at tracking subsidy spending, most government broadband policies have been based on flawed, incomplete or downright hallucinated data. In other words, for the better part of fifteen years our government not only didn't really know where broadband funding was needed, it couldn't be bothered to track if it was actually going there. Not too surprisingly, as a result, we've seen years of fraud, waste and abuse in the FCC's Universal Service Fund (USF) and e-rate programs intended for rural and school telecom improvements."

Read more here and here.

D.C. Circuit Smacks FCC (Again)

March 7, 2016

This morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit stayed the agency's latest attempt to regulate the rates charged for inmate calling services. This was no surprise. Last October, I warned the agency that these regulations were unlawful. The FCC should have learned its lesson the first time around, in 2013. Then, too, I warned the agency that its regulations were fatally flawed - and then, too, the D.C. Circuit blocked those regulations. This case captures well how the FCC in recent years has done business. Political expedience trumps everything else; the rule of law is ridiculed rather than respected; and bipartisan compromise is rejected in favor of a party-line vote. Thankfully, we can still count on the federal courts to rebuke an agency untethered to the rule of law. Rules and reason may yet triumph over raw power.

Forbes: FCC Betrays America's Faith in Rule of Law

Americans generally have faith that our government operates according to legal authority and predictable rules. If a government-authorized camera records our car exceeding a speed limit, we usually pay the penalty because we have faith that proper procedures were followed. Our faith is tested when a government agency is found to have operated outside the rule of law. That is exactly what happened this week when the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released a troubling report....

Just a few days ago, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released a fiery report alleging that FCC Chair Tom Wheeler colluded with the White House and steered the FCC toward President Obama's policy goals in violation of its charter as an independent agency. The report says FCC leadership ignored requests from staff and that the agency took a sharp turn as soon as President Obama called for Net Neutralization. Staffers flagged problems with the FCC's notice to interested parties, and cautioned that gaps in the record could prompt significant litigation risks. Instead of soliciting further public comment, however, the FCC followed the President's instructions.

By switching from the Section 706 approach to Title II authority, without soliciting additional comments, the FCC blindsided the public. The Commission deprived interested parties of the opportunity to comment on the rulemaking, in clear violation of its obligations under the APA. We may wonder if there is any value in submitting comments to an agency if rulemaking consists of little more than decree by fiat.

Committee chairman John Thune (R-SD) opened questioning in a senate review of FCC procedures this week by asking if Wheeler plans to follow "tradition" and resign as soon as Obama is out. Wheeler was noncommittal but said, "I understand the point you're making." Wheeler may not be the only one donning a corporate parachute. Members of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology (Committee) issued a letter last October requesting that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct an audit of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau indicating dissatisfaction with what some have called the overly aggressive stance of FCC Enforcement Chief, Travis Leblanc. The GAO audit would focus exclusively on the Bureau and address its backlog of consumer complaints, its output and performance metrics, it's reliance on questionable enforcement actions, and recent management decisions.

Harold Furchtgott-Roth has more at Forbes.com.

Harvard Ethics Center - FCC is a Prime Example of Institutional Corruption

Captured Agency: How the Federal Communications Commission Is Dominated by the Industries It Presumably Regulates By Norm Alster, Published by: Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University, 124 Mount Auburn Street, Suite 520N, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Captured agencies are essentially controlled by the industries they are supposed to regulate. According to the report, "The Federal Communications Commission sits at the heart of a bipartisan Washington web of institutional corruption that has for many years championed corporate interests, typically at public expense."

"As a captured agency, the FCC is a prime example of institutional corruption. Officials in such institutions do not need to receive envelopes bulging with cash. But even their most well-intentioned efforts are often overwhelmed by a system that favors powerful private influences, typically at the expense of public interest."

"The General Accounting Office (GAO) has issued several reports citing fraud, waste and mismanagement, along with inadequate FCC oversight..." Bribery, kickbacks, downloading porn, grandstanding for headlines, power-grabbing, concealing evidence and research, and false documentation... "the scope of fraud has been impressive." The best ally of the FCC may be public ignorance, according to this researcher.

From ignoring wireless health concerns, to championing the continual misadministration of federal handouts, to issuing fines for bogus infractions, the FCC leads the way in corrupt, captured agencies. "In recent Congressional testimony, an FCC official reminded legislators that the FCC has over the years been a budget-balancing revenue-making force." (Testimony of Jon Wilkins, Managing Director, Federal Communications Commission, Before the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, March 4, 2015.)

"Indeed, former Chairman Newton Minow, enduringly famous for his 1961 description of television as a vast wasteland, recalls that industry manipulation of regulators was an issue even back then." Newton stated: "When I arrived, the FCC and the communications industry were both regarded as cesspools. Part of my job was to try to clean it up." Researchers found, "Where there is institutional corruption, there are often underlying dependencies that undermine the autonomy and integrity of that institution. Such is the case with the FCC and its broader network of institutional corruption." The Harvard Ethics report concludes: "More than 50 years later, the mess continues to pile up."

Speaking of the too cozy relationship between cell providers and the FCC enforcement bureau, according to Microwave News, "David Dombrowski of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau in Philadelphia wrote to Janet Newton of the EMR Policy Institute asking about operator responses to the toll-free numbers. She then sent him recordings, which the Institute had made from calls to AT&T, Metro PCS, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. "That was the last I heard from him," Newton said. When contacted by Microwave News, Dombrowski wrote back that he could not comment because he was not authorized to speak to the media." Following the EMR Policy Institute's expose' on Dombrowski's lackluster performance in protecting the public from the dangers of RF radiation, Congress wrote the FCC, urging them to vigorously enforce the laws concerning RF radiation exposure limits. In 2014, Deputy Director Bill Davenport of the FCC arranged a $50,000 consent decree with Verizon, regarding its RF safety practices. It's a small but significant step in the right direction and more work needs to be done. Unfortunately, with 11 field offices closing, and 44 field agents fired, that important work may have to take a back seat to other priorities, like regulating the Internet.

The Institute's Deb Carney wants the FCC to get tough with the industry. "The problem is that the FCC is colluding with the cell phone carriers and the result is lax enforcement," she said. Read the well-documented article that reveals the revolving door of lobbyist-to-public-policy hypocrisy, tasked with the (lack of) oversight of your health and safety and the (lack of) privacy of your personal communications.

Red Flag Redux: The FCC Is a Symbol for a Corrupt, Broken American Government

The FCC Is a Symbol for a Corrupt, Broken American Government, according to Ben Collins at Esquire. "The speed of your Internet -as long as you're receiving it- doesn't really matter. That's not what matters. What matters is that there is a protected class at the top that has won immunity and permanent wealth and power by turning its influence into money and jobs and kickbacks and cheating the average consumer in the process. The Chairman of the FCC is the former head of the cable lobby. The head of lobbying at Comcast is a former FCC Commissioner." The Internet wasn't broken. Competition was vigorous. Investment was robust. The problem with the Internet was simply that government was no longer in control of the marketplace of ideas and to various corrupt leaders, that was a problem. No longer were the 'big 3' spoon-feeding the American public. Suddenly there was a gigantic, free, influential, plethora of uncontrolled information that the public had tapped into as an alternate to mainstream, corporate and government controlled media.

As former FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell pointed out, consumers stand to gain nothing by having increased FCC oversight of the internet. McDowell observed: "In refreshingly honest congressional testimony, Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu has crystalized the net neutrality movement's goal: 'FCC oversight of the Internet.' His simple statement acts as a dog whistle to regulators, telling them to sweep everything about the Internet under the government-controlled net neutrality umbrella - technical operations, business decisions, content and speech. State manipulation of the Net would shape "not merely economic policy, not merely competition policy, but also media policy, social policy" and "oversight of the political process," according to Columbia Law Professor Wu's testimony. Current regulations simply do not "capture" the Net the way more government powers would through powerful new rules, according to the Professor. Inviting regulators into your neighborhood is likely to embolden them to control not only your neighbor but you, too."

Why the government should never control the Internet, by former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, Washington Post, July 2014.

Watch Prof. Wu's testimony at 47 minutes and 30 seconds, here.

Field Offices Still Open?

Following the FCC Order 'closing' eleven field offices and eliminating 44 positions in July, 2015, some of our readers may be surprised to find out that many of the 'closed' FCC field offices are still open, and the remaining FCC staffers have no idea when their doors will be shuttered. According to FCC personnel, field office staffers have still not been told when their offices will close and when they may be losing their jobs. Seven months later, they're still there and still anxiously awaiting news... An expensive consulting report revealed a number of compelling reasons for closing the field offices. You can read the executive summary here and read the affidavit of George F. Arsics, Watch Officer at the FCC monitoring station, Powder Springs, for more information.

Read the full $845,000 Censeo/OceanEast consulting report here.

FCC Reauthorization Act Will Force FCC Reform

Senate Commerce Committee chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) plans to introduce a bill in the next few days, the FCC Reauthorization Act of 2016, to do what its name suggests. Authorization bills establish, or reestablish as in this case, a federal agency, including the terms under which it operates and how funds may be spent. As a result, it will very likely be a vehicle for much needed FCC reform.

Pathology of the Grabbing Hand: Free Market Principles vs. Socialist Spectrum Failure

It's spectrum auction time again and the FCC holds the gavel. Unfortunately, there are ample reasons to doubt the FCC's management competency. The last spectrum auction was an utter debacle. Rather than give all bidders an equal shot at the available spectrum, the FCC set aside a portion of the best spectrum for smaller wireless carriers. Marx and Lenin would have been proud of the FCC's intent, but the auction didn't live up to the commission's idealistic aspirations as an arbiter of social engineering. DISH Network (which definitely didn't qualify as a "smaller wireless carrier"), created "designated entities" to snap up the small business spectrum. That discounted spectrum was then channeled back to DISH. The incident illustrates the pitfalls of government intrusion into what should be private transactions.

One of the voices of clarity at the FCC, Commissioner Mike O'Rielly, says the free market is "under continuous assault domestically by self-defined progressives and ultra-liberals, who have found sport in using misguided rhetoric and false pretenses to denigrate one of the core tenets of American society. They demonize company executives, decry profits and income, promote class warfare and push policy positions favoring government-provided services over private sector solutions. Beyond being disingenuous and inflammatory, these views completely ignore the extraordinary benefits that the American capitalistic system brings to communications services."

O'Rielly is correct. The grabbing hand model asserts that individuals working in the public sector act in their own self-interest, just like anyone else. Politicians often exploit special interests (or special interests appoint representatives to act on their behalf). The grabbing hand is an activist interest in reforming government, although The political model that underlies the grabbing hand approach recognizes that dictators use their powers to keep themselves in office, to direct resources to political supporters, to destroy political challengers, and to enrich themselves, often at the expense of the public.

Democracies often generate incentives that make politicians more sensitive to public welfare, in part because they need to be re-elected, but democratically elected politicians typically do not maximize social welfare. In particular, the winning majorities in democracies often pursue highly wasteful policies of redistribution from their losing minorities. In contrast to the career politician, when people become entrepreneurs, they improve the technology in the line of business they pursue (i.e., they create wealth). Conversely, when people become bureaucrats, most of their private returns come from redistributing wealth from others. Such is the case at the FCC.

"Time spent redistributing wealth has two adverse consequences for growth: First, redistribution does not create wealth. Second, redistribution lowers the returns of wealth creation, so that talented people substitute time away from wealth-creating activities. The redistribution of wealth and grabbing hand practices of the Obama administration, as filtered through Wheeler's FCC, have created an atmosphere of distrust, depressed innovation, discouraged entrepreneurism, and have created an unneccessary class and color divide, based on the politics of blame and political correctness to the detriment of the nation as a whole."

This time around, the FCC needs to make sure that the allocated spectrum is acquired fairly and without bias. The FCC's ham-handed response to Congress' demand that they free more spectrum for wireless use is energetic, but it still leaves government assuming responsibility for a huge portion of a process that would be much smoother if the spectrum buyers and sellers were free to deal with each other directly in a free market. Hopefully, the FCC will learn from past mistakes and work to cultivate a wireless industry marked by robust competition and innovation. We can dream can't we?

Explore the issue further with Erik Telford, president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and the FCC's Commissioner Michael O'Rielly with thanks to Andrei Shleifer, Robert Vishny, and David Andolfatto

House and Senate Schedule Further Interrogation of FCC

The House Communications Subcommittee plans to hold an FCC oversight hearing March 22 and wants all the commissioners to testify, the committee said Friday. That hearing will happen fewer than three weeks after the Senate Commerce Committee holds its FCC oversight hearing with all the commissioners. "The upcoming hearing with the FCC Commissioners will allow the committee to continue to exercise its critical oversight responsibilities over the FCC and to ask the hard questions," according to the committee chairman.

One Year Later: Commissioner Pai Calls for End to FCC Net Takeover

"Reams of paper have been spent on litigation. Mountains more have been built counseling ISPs on the new requirements," FCC Commissioner Pai said, speaking at the Heritage Foundation, "And there are even stacks and stacks of paper that have been filed responding to the agency's Paperwork Reduction Act analysis. All this has been a gift to the legal profession. But for most Americans, the marriage has been a dud." Pai noted decreasing investment, slowing broadband deployment, discouragement of permissionless innovation, and injection of uncertainty into the marketplace. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, heard oral arguments in the legal challenge to Title II based regulations on Dec. 7 and should be rendering a decision soon.

Senators Author Bill to Kill Net Neutralization

This year's Presidential candidates, Senators Marco Rubio (FL), Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY) signed on to a bill spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (UT), John Cornyn (TX), Tom Cotton (AR), Benjamin Sasse (NE) and Thom Tillis (NC).

The bill is designed to nullify Net Neutralization and prevent any future reclassification of Internet access as a telecommunications service subject to Title II. "The rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission ... on Feb. 26, 2015 (relating to broadband Internet access service) shall have no force or effect, and the Commission may not reissue such rule in substantially the same form, or issue a new rule that is substantially the same as such rule, unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this Act." Read the bill here.

FCC Commissioner O'Rielly: Censorship Damages Agency Credibility

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O'Rielly has accused Chairman Tom Wheeler of unevenly applying rules for the disclosure of nonpublic information, saying Wheeler and high-level staff often release such information but commissioners aren't allowed to do the same. "It is common sense that, if the Commission wants the strongest and most defensible items, it needs to talk to the outside world, including interested and affected parties. This simple principle is embodied in the Administrative Procedure Act notice and comment rulemaking process."

O'Rielly stated, "The Chairman or high-level staff working on proceedings - routinely puts out blogs and fact sheets to put its 'spin' on the substance around the time when items are circulated to Commissioners for consideration. While some of these documents are nonspecific, others provide details about some of the draft proposals or decisions. As such, they represent and contain nonpublic information.

Specifically, the Commission staff, presumably at the behest of the Chairman, is conducting private briefings for select members of the press and favored outside parties. The Chairman, the Commission's media relations team and select staff are not only allowed to openly discuss items, but also post blogs, tweet, issue fact sheets, brief the press, and inform favored outside parties about their content. O'Rielly asserts "the uneven application of a rule preventing disclosure, serves as a roadblock to effective public participation and ultimately damages the FCC's credibility as an agency."

O'Rielly asks, "How can Commission staff hold such briefings on circulated but not approved and released items? How is nonpublic information not being disclosed? More importantly, why are Commissioners precluded from discussing the same?" Finally, O'Rielly posits, "If this behavior is actually authorized by the Chairman, let's see the official documents permitting it. Where are the letters from the Chairman that covered each and every release of such information at the time? While I suspect these letters don't exist, I am always happy to be proven wrong." Read more from FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly

AT&T Charges FCC with Suppression of Information

AT&T's VP of federal regulatory Caroline Van Wie says the FCC appears to be "selectively suppressing the free flow of information to impede public debate on the merits of increased special access regulation," information AT&T says shows the marketplace is competitive and "heavy-handed, monopoly-era regulation" is unnecessary. An FCC spokesperson declined to comment on ATT&T's allegations. John Eggerton has more.

Viewers Risk Losing PBS Broadcasts After FCC Auction

Local PBS stations could pull in hundreds of millions of dollars this year by selling their airwaves to the federal government, raising worries that pockets of the U.S. could lose their access to "Downton Abbey," "Sesame Street" and other free PBS broadcasts. PBS estimates that about 20% of its prime-time viewers watch over-the-air broadcasts. Its supporters are especially worried about access to commercial-free children's programming, including such popular educational shows as Sesame Street and Super Why!. PBS says children 2 to 8 years old watch PBS three times as much as they watch other broadcast channels. A spokesman for the FCC said the agency will address any service losses in any such communities on a case-by- case basis, and could designate a new channel for noncommercial use in those markets. Read more

ACA Files in D.C. Circuit Appeal - Challenging FCC's Speech-Chilling Order

ACA took the FCC to task for its absurd, unconstitutionally broad, impermissibly vague and profoundly unworkable interpretation of the TCPA. ACA and the other petitioners also argue in the joint reply brief that the FCC's position threatens callers' constitutional rights to free speech by holding callers strictly liable for their speech. The petitioners draw to the circuit court's attention that the FCC did not even bother to address the concern initially raised in the petitioners' opening brief that the ATDS restrictions are not narrowly tailored and that strict liability for calling reassigned numbers impermissibly chills speech. Link

FCC Commissioner: Free Speech Slipping Away

Ajit Pai, who was appointed to the FCC in 2012, has consistently opposed the agency's efforts to impose more restrictions on speech. The commission ruled last year that the First Amendment did not apply to Internet service providers, a precedent that Pai and others pointed out could lead to more regulations on speech, particularly on websites.

"It is conceivable to me to see the government saying, 'We think [a particular website] is having a disproportionate effect..." Pai noted shortly after the ruling. "The FCC doesn't have the ability to regulate anything he says, and we want to start tamping down on websites like that." Link

Former FCC Chairman Powell Calls Wheeler Proposal a Privacy Nightmare

Calling the chairman "willfully oblivious" to the changing TV marketplace, Powell pointed to Netflix, Amazon, HBO Now, and Roku, and said that cable content can already be watched on iPhones, iPads, Xboxes, Smart TV's and more.

"Wheeler's proposal reaches backward to breathe new life into the market for more boxes, using a pre-Internet, 20-year-old law minted in a time far, far before "House of Cards," binge watching, YouTube and smartphones. This rear-view-mirror regulation is the wrong vision for the video future, and one should be surprised and alarmed that the FCC is peddling it," he said. Powell also highlighted the proposal's blow to customers, saying it benefits well-heeled tech companies, not consumers. Powell also took aim at Google, which lobbied heavily on the issue. "The FCC also hands over access to valuable set-top box data to the likes of Google," he says. "This all allows these tech giants to profit handsomely off the intellectual property of others without sharing any of that cash (or prized big data) with the people who created it." Read more here.

Top Dem Warns Wheeler

Ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) registered concerns about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's set-top box proposal. Nelson advised the FCC to take a "measured approach" to any rulemaking Nelson told Wheeler that the commission should avoid taking "any action that could threaten the "vibrant" video programming market. Nelson ticked off ways the proceeding could go off track to the detriment of the video marketplace. Nelson says he supports the objective of enabling competition, but he warned Wheeler that the FCC "should not proceed down a path to rules that fails to fully account for today's pay TV viewing landscape." He also said the FCC should not allow third parties to do more with programming content than "has been done through negotiated arrangements between content owners and their partners." John Eggerton has more.

Congress Says FCC Inconsistent - Distorts, Ignores - Requirements to Produce Honest Reports to the Public

"Since 2011, it appears that the Commission has applied inconsistent definitions and analyses in making determinations. This behavior concerns us." The oversight committee further stated "This represents the latest in [a] series of troubling actions that distort - or outright ignore - the FCC's requirements to produce honest, data-driven reports to inform policymakers and the public." The Congressional oversight committee said it would hold a hearing about FCC processes in March, 2016, though they did not specify at this time, what the agenda would be. An FCC representative said the agency had received the letter and is in the process of reviewing it.

Link

Four Ways to Modernize the 1996 Telecom Act

A 20th-Anniversary Wish List for a 21st Century Rewrite

1. Congress should pass legislation that declares broadband is an information service not subject to common-carrier regulation. The legislation should also give statutory permanence to strong network-neutrality guarantees along the lines of the FCC's 2010 open Internet order. Such a bill allows both network-neutrality proponents and the proponents of light-touch regulation of broadband to achieve their major legislative objectives, and puts to rest the longest standing and most contentious telecommunications debate of the 21st century. It would also remove the uncertainty about future broadband regulation, which is restraining broadband investment.

2. Congress should recognize in legislation the advanced nature of the Internet- protocol transition and set a date, perhaps 2020, for the sunset of the old legacy copper network. Every dollar that telephone companies are required by law to expend today maintaining the copper network is a dollar not expended on fiber optics and other advanced 21st century telecommunications infrastructures.

3. Another legislative provision should create incentives for government agencies to surrender telecommunications spectrum for auction to commercial wireless carriers. Simply stated, government agencies should be offered a share of the auction proceeds in exchange for a surrender of the spectrum they hold. That approach appears to be working in the case of television broadcasters, and there's every reason to believe it would work well for government agencies. In my mind, that's the best approach to getting large allocations of spectrum onto the commercial auction block quickly to meet the growing demand for spectrum for mobile data.

4. Congress should also adopt a Bill of Rights for privacy for Internet users with jurisdiction in the Federal Trade Commission over all telecommunications privacy issues. Giving Internet users greater assurance that their privacy is protected should result in a greater willingness to use the Internet for commercial purposes.

Author: Rick Boucher, honorary co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance and former U.S. House of Representatives member for Virginia from 1983 to 2011, serving as chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

FCC Hit with 10 Billion Dollar Racial Discrimination Suit

President Obama and the Democratic Party have completely excluded the African-American community when it comes to economic inclusion, Byron Allen said in a statement. "Everyone talks about diversity, but diversity in Hollywood and the media starts with ownership. African-Americans don't need handouts and donations; we can hire ourselves if white corporate America does business with us in a fair and equitable way. A driving purpose of the Federal Communications Act and the First Amendment is to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse sources," the lawsuit indicates. "Yet the FCC has done nothing to protect the voices of African-American-owned media companies in the face of increased media consolidation," it adds. "Instead, the FCC works hand-in-hand with these merging television distribution companies to enable and facilitate their Civil Rights violations. The FCC's apparent standard operating procedure is to obtain and accept sham diversity commitments from merger applicants, in excess of its statutory duties." The suit continues with further allegations of civil rights violations.

Link 1, Link 2

Legislative report slams FCC on open records

The Federal Communications Commission might be deliberately withholding public records, according to a report released this week. "The agency either misunderstands how to use redactions, raising concerns of competency, or the agency intentionally misuses redactions, raising concerns of integrity," according to the report. "Given the numerous examples in which the FCC improperly redacts information, this may be a deliberate tactic to withhold information from the public." About a quarter of the report was dedicated to side-by-side comparisons of FCC documents, which were redacted when sent to journalists but provided in full to the committee. In reaction to the report, the House passed legislation that would create the most sweeping reforms to federal open records laws in nearly a decade. Approved by voice vote, the measure would limit exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that now allow federal agencies to hold back information.

Link 1, Link 2

Forbes: A Faster Internet? Not With Today's FCC Regulations

"The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was to provide a "deregulatory framework" for increasing competition and to "accelerate rapidly private sector deployment of advanced telecommunications and information technologies and services to all Americans." Yet, in the two decades following passage of the Act, the promise of deregulation has been replaced by re-regulation and the imposition of 1930s public utility-style regulations. Instead of competition, FCC regulations work to re-concentrate the industry. There are no consumer benefits from increasing market concentration and reducing competition. Consumers would see more benefits from a faster Internet services and from a more competitive market. Concentration by regulation is not the answer."

Link

The Hill: An FCC Proposal that Could Hurt Latinos

The consequences of the Chairman Wheeler's proposal to eliminate broadcast exclusivity rules would have negative consequences for Latinos. Almost 60 million Americans - 41 percent of whom are minorities - who depend on free, broadcast television, would lose access to many local TV stations, including their treasured local news. Importantly, Latinos who rely on Spanish-language broadcast television already have few options when they want to get their news in Spanish. Eliminating exclusivity rules would cause more Spanish-focused stations around the country to close, leading to even fewer options for a community with comparatively fewer options already. We hope the FCC understands the negative consequences Chairman Wheeler's proposal to eliminate long-standing broadcast exclusivity rules would have on Latino and low-income families around the country who depend on local broadcast television. How is denying vital information to the public honoring the FCC's commitment to empowering broadcasters to serve their local communities?

Link

Legislative Report Indicates FCC Lacks Competence or Integrity - or Both

House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform:

"The FCC's tendency to over-redact makes it difficult for requesters to understand what the agency has provided them, and consequently,to make follow up requests. For example, in response to a request from Vice News reporter Jason Leopold, the FCC withheld 1,900 pages in their entirety under exemption five. These redactions demonstrate a lack of responsiveness to the public's right for information. The agency either misunderstands how to use redactions, raising concerns of competency, or the agency intentionally misuses redactions, raising concerns of integrity. Given the numerous examples in which the FCC improperly redacts information, this may be a deliberate tactic to withhold information from the public."

New York Rep. Peter King Writes (again) to FCC about Pirate Radio

Representative King has again asked the FCC to 'do something' about the jamming of public service, amateur service, and FM piracy in New York. Mr. King says the ringleader is located in Astoria Queens, and that the Enforcement Bureau is well of aware of who he is. [link] King, backed by the ARRL, who boast a membership of almost 20% of amateur radio operators in the U.S., states that this interference has been allowed to continue for too long. King is one of over 100 legislators who have sponsored legislation to overturn private property rights, using the notion that there is a federal interest in allowing amateurs to operate from their residences, despite the fact that the FCC has determined this is not the case, and despite the fact that amateur operators signed private agreements stating they would refrain from operating at their residences.

In a recent and related development, an $18,000 forfeiture levied on March 12, 2014, was dismissed on January 15, 2015, by the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, tasked with proving the FCC's case. This may be a record for the speedy dismissal of an FCC action. The FCC was unable to inspect Nate Johnson's CB station and Johnson allegedly ignored the FCC's warnings, prohibitions, and citations. The Department of Justice was unable to locate the CB operator, resulting in dismissal of the forfeiture, which was approved by Northeast Regional Director Mike Moffitt and assessed by David Dombrowski, whose Langhorne, PA office will be closed shortly, per an FCC Order published in July, 2015.

For his part, Mr. Wheeler has said the FCC doesn't have the time, money, equipment, or resources necessary to attack the pirates [link] , which pursuit Travis LeBlanc likens to playing whac-a-mole [link] . However, it would be very difficult to apprehend pirates in the northeast, when the FCC's Northeast Regional Director has expressly directed his employees to avoid enforcement actions against pirates, according to FCC Commissioner Pai: "Indeed, a whistleblower within the Enforcement Bureau gave me an October 28, 2014 email from the Bureau's Northeast Regional Director [George 'Mike' Moffitt] to field agents that included the following instructions: "We are scaling back on our response to pirate operations. Barring interference to a safety service, pirates should NOT be given a high priority (If there's interference to a safety service, it's not a 'pirate case' but instead a 'safety case.')" The email went on to state that "[w]e will NOT be issuing NALs to the majority of pirate operators." Pai concluded, "This is powerful evidence of the FCC's misguided enforcement priorities."

Pai also stated, "Instead of going after companies for conduct that Americans actually complain about and that could actually violate our rules, we're chasing press. Over the last couple of years, I've received many complaints about the Enforcement Bureau. For example, some allege that the Bureau engages in selective prosecution, targeting disfavored companies while letting favored companies off the hook. Others maintain that the Bureau conducts abusive and frivolous investigations." [Link].

Meanwhile Pirate Watcher, John Anderson of DIYMEDIA says, "Everybody involved in this little corner of the media policy world is a paper tiger: the enforcement organization and agents themselves, the industry lobbyists who are trying to blow the notion of pirate radio out of all proportion to reality, and the Commissioners who've picked up the industry's crusade for the purposes of making some political hay. None have suggested a meaningful or constructive path away from the status quo - which is all the better for the pirates, who will continue to flourish in spectrum-crevices long considered unserviceable by their licensed bretheren."

CBS NEWS: Americans Hate Federal Government - More Than Ever

The federal government has joined the ranks of the bottom-of-the-barrel industries, according to a new survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Americans' satisfaction level in dealing with federal agencies -- everything from the IRS to the FCC -- has fallen for a third consecutive year, reaching an eight-year low.

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FCC Commissioner Pai Calls Partisan Rancor 'Unprecedented'

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai said the partisan rancor at the FCC over the past year-plus has been unprecedented in scope. He said that on enforcement matters, there have been more party line votes in the last 14 months than in the previous 43 years. "The FCC [is] micromanaging all kinds of business plans and hauling in companies to flyspeck whatever innovative service offerings they might choose to put out into the marketplace" according to Mr. Pai. He called that the "very definition" of regulatory uncertainty, suggesting the FCC's answers changed in the political winds. Pai called the FCC's recent conclusion that wired (and earlier, wireless) broadband was not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion "the ultimate in kabuki theater" and just the latest of an ongoing "shifting of the goalposts" depending on what the policy goal du jour may be. Commissioner Pai said FCC actions are not appropriate, and in fact are arbitrary and capricious, which is the legal test for an illegal agency action, and such actions are a "discredit' to the agency. John Eggerton has more.

Congress Moves to Prevent Broadband Price Regulations by FCC

Congressional leaders say the proposed "No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act" (HR 2666) would codify FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's promises to refrain from regulating rates that broadband providers charge. Last year, the FCC reclassified broadband access as a utility service, which empowers the agency to set rates. Wheeler has said the FCC won't do so, but the congressional leadership has said a law is needed, because any future FCC chairman could break Wheeler's promise. Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Oregon) said that the bill will require "future chairmen to live by the commitments this administration has made as to how the sweeping authority the FCC granted itself is to be used." Congresspersons Anna Eshoo, Frank Pallone, and Rick Boucher, all agree that the FCC should not be in the business of regulating rates.

Currently, the FCC faces court challenges from Internet providers, questioning the regulator's authority to oversee how Internet service is provided to consumers in 2015's Internet takevoer. The FCC is also facing questions about why it has not extended an exemption to transparency guidelines for small Internet providers. The regulations overburden small companies - who serve 21 million Americans in small or rural towns across the country - one company head told lawmakers from a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Commerce Committee Eshoo, Pallone, Boucher, agree.

Minorities and Others May Lose Public TV in Reverse Auction

PBS, CPB and APTS tried to convince the FCC to revise its auction rules to set aside spectrum for noncommercial educational television use in every market. The FCC declined that request. Consumer advocates say, "For viewers that are both minorities and public TV viewers, the impact could be devastating" because minorities are the largest viewers of over the air public tv in the areas participating in the auction.

Despite the chance they may leave their viewers in the dark, Spanish Broadcasting System (SBSA) today announced its participation in the FCC's Television Spectrum Incentive Auction with its Miami and Houston Television stations. WSBS-CD Channel 50, and Houston television station, KTBU - Channel 42, to potentially generate cash proceeds that are expected to be created by the auction process.

Link

Participating TV stations will auction their spectrum to the FCC, who will re-auction that spectrum to broadband providers. Stations can either sell all of their spectrum and go off the air, or give up spectrum and share a channel with another station. Noncommercial and commercial stations may also share channels. In the auction, stations on UHF channels have the option of giving up their spectrum and moving to a VHF channel. Stations on high-VHF channels can give up spectrum and move to low VHF, but high VHF channels are less susceptible to interference from other stations, making low-VHF channels less desirable. A broadcaster would stand to earn the most money by giving up all spectrum assigned to its station. Market activity will determine how much the other options will yield.

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Speculators are already paying some participating stations up front in exchange for a share of their actual auction payout. At least two public broadcasters have cut deals with spectrum speculators. Connecticut Public Broadcasting will relinquish the spectrum assigned to WEDW-TV in Bridgeport, one of four stations in its statewide network, to spectrum speculator LocusPoint Networks. Northern Michigan University in Marquette and Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant are now both part of the auction. WNMU's general manager says they are doing it to answer a valuable question, how much the spectrum is worth, according to 9and10news.com, and if the auction ends with the decision to shut down all five of the university's stations (located in Flint, Mt. Pleasant, Alpena, Cadillac and Manistee), the university could generate $726 million, leaving over the air viewers in the dark for content they currently enjoy for free.

LocusPoint also struck an agreement with KCSM-TV in San Mateo, Calif., to subsidize the financially strapped station for nearly $1 million a year until its spectrum could be auctioned off. LocusPoint will share proceeds from the auction with licensee San Mateo Community College District. Stations are free to say whether they are participating but most are choosing not to. About 90 percent of public TV stations have taken part in spectrum auction webinars to find out more about the reverse auction. In San Bernardino, Public TV station KVCR has also entered the auction to sell airwaves. Several university licensees of public broadcasting stations are considering participating in the auction: Howard University in Washington, D.C. (WHUT); the University of South Florida in Tampa (WUSF); and Bowling Green State University, in Bowling Green, Ohio (WBGU).

The corporation for public broadcasting (CPB) is encouraging pubcasters to be transparent about their deliberations and to get community input before making decisions. Howard University asked for online comments in November. In December, 2015, three more university licensees voted to consider auction options: WKAR in East Lansing, Mich.; WDCQ, University Center, Mich.; and KNCT, Killeen, Texas. WHUT will also participate, as will WIPB in Muncie, Indiana. In the NY/ NJ area, stations could make from 500-800 million for their spectrum, which will be re-auctioned to broadband providers. Some areas in the U.S. are served by just one public TV station. If those licensees choose to relinquish spectrum, their local viewers could lose access to free, over-the-air (OTA) noncommercial TV signals. At least 21 larger markets are served by just one public TV licensee, according to CPB, including San Diego, Detroit, Dallas and Portland, Oregon.

Schools Failing to Comply with Telephone Calling Protection Act Risk Large FCC Fines

Text messenging to cellular phones without express prior consent is a violation of FCC rules. "The FCC's recent action clarifying TCPA has helped highlight the need to use an intelligent combination of methods to reach parents," said SchoolMessenger's Senior Vice President Nate Brogan. "Schools have to be prepared to quickly and efficiently handle recipient consent and preferences, and both we and the districts we work with have a wealth of experience to share in these areas." Participants in a webinar about the TCPA will receive a white paper detailing best practices, and information about other new notification system tools to aid them in both improving TCPA compliance and effective communications. To register for the February 3 webinar, visit http://www.schoolmessenger.com/TCPAwebinar.

Link

Define 'egregious?'

GAO Probe to Investigate FCC Enforcement Bureau: A-OK or Hopelessly FUBAR ?

Controversy persists into 2016 as the FCC continues to rely on large fines as its primary enforcement mechanism, to the irritation of individuals, wireless industry groups and telecommunications companies - not to mention two-fifths of the FCC Commissioners. In the past year, the FCC proposed a $100 million fine against AT&T for failing to clarify what they call a thrice-clarified policy. "In the end, this case is really just a regulatory bait and switch," Pai said his statement. "A once-approved network management practice is now out of favor and carries with it a $100 million penalty." There was also a $105 million fine against Sprint for allegedly placing unauthorized charges on subscriber bills and various penalties for hotel companies that block Wi-Fi hotspots, on their own properties, using FCC approved equipment. Meanwhile, WDBJ was fined $325,000 for briefly showing a hand-job in the bottom corner of the screen during their evening news broadcast. WDBJ says it was unintentional and an incomplete gesture, but the FCC demands satisfaction. In response to many of the Enforcement Bureau's fines since 2014, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai states: "To be blunt, the FCC's enforcement process has gone off the rails. Instead of dispensing justice by applying the law to the facts, the Commission has focused on issuing headline-grabbing fines, regardless of the legality of its actions." Congress asked the FCC to clarify why fines remain uncollected, and in answer, Enforcement Chief Travis LeBlanc said the FCC has collected upwards of 98 million in fines this year, but none of the roughly $235 million in fines that the FCC proposed in those headline-grabbing, phone-subsidy, jamming, and AT&T-throttling cases have yet made it to the government's coffers, leading to questions about LeBlanc's definition of terms like "enforcement" and "collection."

In 2013, the agency trumpeted, "Today's actions constitute the most recent step in the Commission's significant efforts to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in the Lifeline program and preserve the overall integrity of the Universal Service Fund (USF)" but the FCC has yet to officially impose the penalty on those companies -- and several are still deemed eligible to receive FCC reimbursements for phone subsidies, according to data from the Universal Service Administrative Company, which runs Lifeline. FCC Commissioner Pai says LeBlanc's numbers cannot be true, challenging the enforcement bureau to list all of their fines individually, along with their status, whether collected or not, and if collected, what percentage of each individual fine was collected, and when. Pai says he has asked for those numbers repeatedly, and that he has been consistently denied answers. Pai famously stated, "I cannot help but observe that it is a good thing for the Enforcement Bureau that it cannot be fined for making misleading statements." Pai also said fine amounts seem to be "plucked from thin air... Congress never intended the FCC to assert that a company has violated never-adopted rules, to ignore facts that get in the way of good press, or to calculate potential forfeitures so implausibly large that any rough justice penalty will do."

Not to be outdone, FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said he requested the same data LeBlanc apparently had access to, a mere 5 months prior to LeBlanc's assertions, but the data was completely unavailable to him, and he was told that the FCC does not even keep track of such data because the FCC considers an "enforcement action" complete upon publication of a forfeiture order, and not on collection of a forfeiture, which is in the purview of the federal court, not in the FCC's purview - unless an entity deigns to make voluntarily payments for alleged violations.

Commissioners Pai and O'Rielly have repeatedly complained they're the last to know when anything meaningful is about to happen at the FCC. Meanwhile, a whistle-blower has supplied an email, allegedly from recently demoted, Northeast Regional Director, G. Michael Moffitt, indicating that the FCC would not be taking action against FM Pirates, despite the express wishes of a number of Congressmen, which some are calling prima facie evidence of selective enforcement, which is a major league departure from the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. Eleven field offices are closing. Displaced and/or fired employees are furious. Document leaks and internal deliberations have been posted online. The Appellate court is considering arguments opposing the FCC's Title II takeover of the Internet, which they call Net Neutrality, while Wall Street reports a 12% drop in broadband investment, as a result of the order. Prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday in 2015, Congressional leaders decided to call for a GAO investigation of the FCC's enforcement bureau, and two of the five FCC Commissioners agreed with that decision. Stay tuned for an interesting New Year!

FCC Commissioner Aji Pai Admonishes Enforcement Chief for Lying About Collections

HIGHLIGHTS of THE 33RD ANNUAL INSTITUTE ON TELECOMMUNICATIONS POLICY & REGULATION WASHINGTON, DC, DECEMBER 3, 2015

"I cannot help but observe that it is a good thing for the Enforcement Bureau that it cannot be fined for making misleading statements."

Last month, I told the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the FCC's enforcement process had gone off the rails. It gave me no pleasure to say this. During my time working in the Office of General Counsel and as a Commissioner, I've had a positive and productive relationship with the Enforcement Bureau. The Bureau is filled with talented and dedicated staff. And its mission is critically important. But given all that has happened over the last couple of years, the inescapable conclusion is that things have gone seriously awry. And this isn't my view alone. My office has heard expressions of concern from widely respected members of the bar, Capitol Hill, staff in other Bureaus and Offices at the Commission, and even numerous people within the Enforcement Bureau itself. To cure the problem, we have to accurately diagnose what exactly has gone wrong. From my perspective, there are three main issues.

First, instead of applying the law to the facts, the Commission's enforcement process has shifted to issuing headline-grabbing fines regardless of the law.

Under the leadership of Acting Chairwoman Clyburn, Chairman Genachowski, Acting Chairman Copps, and Chairman Martin, there was not a single party-line vote on a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) or forfeiture order. Let me put that another way. For nearly a decade, there were no party-line votes at all on these matters. Indeed, all I could find were two items from 2004 and one from way back in 1963. This history makes it all the more remarkable we've had nine party-line votes at the FCC on NALs and forfeiture orders in the last 14 months. Why? Why is there suddenly so much discord at the Commission on enforcement matters? The answer is simple. Instead of maintaining the sober, "just the facts, ma'am" enforcement approach embodied by Dragnet's Joe Friday, our main goal now seems to be keeping up with the Kardashians when it comes to press coverage. I'll just say this: The litigation mess to come didn't have to be.

Second, the FCC's current enforcement process sets the wrong priorities and is less productive than it used to be.

Some have tried to frame any criticism in this area as reflecting opposition to any strong enforcement. Indeed, in response to my criticisms at last month's congressional hearing, it was said that the FCC under Chairman Martin had issued far more NALs and forfeiture orders than it has recently. Now, it turns out that this is right. For example, in 2007 under Chairman Martin, the seventh year of the Bush Administration, the Commission issued 106 NALs and 89 forfeiture orders. And with one month left in 2015, the seventh year of the Obama Administration, the Commission has issued only 22 NALs and 44 forfeiture orders. But these statistics indict, not acquit, the FCC's current enforcement process. With visions of New York Times headlines dancing in its head, the FCC currently has little interest in doing bread-and-butter enforcement work. This became clear to me during the Commission's consideration of the Enforcement Bureau's field reorganization plan.

Indeed, a whistleblower within the Enforcement Bureau gave me an October 28, 2014 email from the Bureau's [recently demoted] Northeast Regional Director to [recently eliminated] field agents that included the following instructions: "We are scaling back on our response to pirate operations. Barring interference to a safety service, pirates should NOT be given a high priority (If there's interference to a safety service, it's not a 'pirate case' but instead a 'safety case.')" The email went on to state that "[w]e will NOT be issuing NALs to the majority of pirate operators."

This is powerful evidence of the FCC's misguided enforcement priorities. Instead of going after companies for conduct that Americans actually complain about and that could actually violate our rules, we're chasing press. Instead of setting the table with meat and potatoes, we're foraging for truffles.

HFDF Employee's Sticky Fingers Leave Tell-Tale Evidence

Third, the Enforcement Bureau is no longer accountable to FCC Commissioners.

We have reached the point at which Commissioners themselves can't oversee the enforcement process. Over the last couple of years, I've received many complaints about the Enforcement Bureau. For example, some allege that the Bureau engages in selective prosecution, targeting disfavored companies while letting favored companies off the hook. Others maintain that the Bureau conducts abusive and frivolous investigations. In order to understand for myself the Bureau's priorities and processes, I made a simple request of the Bureau on June 24: Could you please provide me a list of your open investigations? My office has followed up on this request 13 separate times. Almost half a year later, I still haven't received any information. This is astonishing.

At this point, I'm only hoping, in the spirit of soap actress Susan Lucci's battle to win an Emmy, that the nineteenth time will be the charm. When I raised this matter at a congressional oversight hearing last month, it was suggested that I wasn't entitled to this information because it pertained to law enforcement activities rather than policymaking. But this doesn't hold water. For one thing, the Enforcement Bureau sure does seem to be in the policymaking business these days. Additionally, and in any case, under the Communications Act, FCC Commissioners have the same responsibilities with respect to law enforcement that we do for policymaking.

Or, to put it another way, the Enforcement Bureau is not an independent agency within an independent agency. And if the suggestion is that information about investigations is too sensitive for FCC Commissioners to know, I'd point out that Commissioners have top-secret security clearances. In short, there's no excuse for agency leadership not to make this information available. And if the problem is actually that the leadership itself can't get this information from the Enforcement Bureau, then the FCC is confronting greater challenges than even I would have imagined!

It is only recently that the Bureau has started stonewalling. Commissioners are also kept in the dark about other important enforcement-related activities. Recently, for example, the Chief of the Enforcement Bureau and Acting Chief of the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding consumer protection with the Chief of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. Commissioners Clyburn, Rosenworcel, O'Rielly, and I were not aware of this document, let alone shown it, until the day it was released. Yet agency leadership had been working on it for 18 months!

I am concerned that consent decrees are being used to avoid judicial and Commission scrutiny of dubious cases. Most companies are risk-averse and will reluctantly sign on the dotted line if the alternative could be virtually limitless liability or if they are repeat players at the Commission. I therefore understand why some companies have entered into consent decrees and agreed to pay penalties in cases that appear to lack merit. But we should all acknowledge that those decisions come at a price. They make it more likely that in future investigations, the law and facts will be stretched even further in a quest for favorable media coverage.

I therefore applaud the leaders of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for recently asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate the management of the Enforcement Bureau. And I hope that the GAO has more luck than I've had in getting information about Bureau operations. Currently, the Commission issues NALs even when it recognizes internally that they have serious problems. Major holes in the Commission's theory are often left unaddressed. And the Commission that issues an NAL doesn't necessarily have to follow through with a forfeiture order, which would let aggrieved parties challenge the agency in court.

Recently, POLITICO published what can only be described as a less than flattering story with the headline "FCC proposes millions in fines, collects $0." In response, the Enforcement Bureau published a blog entry attempting to rebut the article. When I read it, I was perplexed. To give just one example, it claims that the Commission has collected $98 million in fines during 2015 and that this amount accounts for 88.6% of the money owed for issued fines.

Doing the math, that would mean that there was only about $12.6 million in uncollected fines for 2015. But this cannot possibly be true.

For example, on October 21, the Commission imposed forfeitures totaling $30 million dollars on six prepaid calling card providers. As of today, that money has not been collected. Ironically, the Commission imposed that $30 million in forfeitures because it claimed that the prepaid calling card providers had violated section 201 of the Communications Act by engaging in misleading and deceptive marketing.

I cannot help but observe that it is a good thing for the Enforcement Bureau that it cannot be fined for making misleading statements.

And it is not just what the blog says that I found interesting. The agency is facing bipartisan criticism from Capitol Hill for proposing headline-grabbing fines in NALs and then, when the press coverage fades, failing to move to an order that actually imposes a fine. The blog is curiously silent on this score.

If we embrace once again the Bureau's proper mission, we will go a long way towards promoting public confidence that the Commission is focused on the facts and laboring within the law.

https://www.fcc.gov/document/commissioner-pai-plifcba-remarks

Consumer Advocates Push FCC on Broadband Privacy Rules

A coalition of 59 organizations on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler calling on him to get cracking on privacy protection rules for consumers. The groups include consumer advocates such as Consumer Watchdog and the Chicago Consumer Coalition as well as the Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Association of Law Libraries. The coalition wants Wheeler to "move forward as quickly as possible on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing strong rules to protect consumers from having their personal data collected and shared by their broadband provider without affirmative consent, or for purposes other than providing broadband Internet access service."

Link

Advocates of Smaller Government Cite Lack of FCC Process Reform

Seton Motley, president of Less Government, says 'Why Do We Need an FCC?' Motley says the recently approved Process Reform Act, part of the just passed omnibus bill, is ineffective. "This bill has done nothing to rein in the players," Motley said. "The FCC is supposed to be this independent, expert agency that makes decisions based on facts and numbers - but they're not." FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, and a growing chorus of technology experts agree. Motley also says technological innovation is at odds with government interference. "In 20 years, nothing in the history of human endeavor has grown bigger, faster, or better than the Internet, because the government has not been involved," Motley said. "So why do we even need an FCC anymore? To paraphrase Jesse Jackson, 'End it, don't mend it.'"

James Gattuso, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, agrees. Gattusso says reforming the FCC will require more than small changes at the margins to reverse powers the FCC granted itself during the Obama administration. "The problem is the vast and ill-defined new authority the FCC has asserted." Leo Pusateri, a conservative psychologist who writes about constitutional principles and about consumer choice, says, "The broadband industry is providing unprecedented benefits to consumers now, in terms of innovation, quality, and price." He continues, "In particular, the open Internet rules are not needed and they threaten to jeopardize broadband's future growth. The situation's more complicated for broadcast, cable, and video issues, but generally the FCC should be looking toward reducing its footprint in that sector as well."

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and current Presidential contender says, "The Federal Government has become a vast bloated powerful and corrupt bureaucracy." She said over the weekend that she could improve the economy by cutting federal worker pay because they were "watching porn all day long." Fiorina continued, saying, "Washington, D.C. has become a vast and unaccountable bureaucracy. It's been growing for 40 years," she opined. "We have no idea how our money is spent." Fiorina said that she has a two-prong plan for boosting the economy, by reforming the federal government. "One, zero-based budgeting so we actually know where money is being spent, and we're talking about the whole budget and not just the rate of increase," she remarked. "And two, pay for performance in our civil service." She remarked, "How many Inspector General reports do we need to read, that say you can watch porn all day long, and get paid exactly the same way as somebody who's trying to do his job?"

Leading conservatives like Senator Jeff Sessions are calling for replacement of members of the legislature, including Republican members, who voted to increase expeditures without greater accountability, starting with Speaker Ryan. Watch as Senator Sessions explains why voters are in open rebellion against elitist career politicians, indifferent federal agencies, and seemingly endless bureaucratic overreach. According to Sessions, voters on both sides of aisle "have come to believe that their party's elites are not only uninterested in defending their interests but - as with this legislation, and fast-tracking the President's international trade pact - openly hostile to them." On the floor, Sessions further reminded his colleagues that their duty is the American people - not special interests, immigration advocacy groups, or lobbyists for narrow business concerns.

Federal Trade Commission Policy Director and DoJ Antitrust Attorney Calls FCC Rules Intrusive

David Balto, a policy director at the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Competition and an attorney in the Justice Department's antitrust division stated the following in a NY Times item: [T]he extraordinarily intrusive rules being considered at the F.C.C. would shut down vibrant innovation by forcing existing television providers to simply hand over their programming rights to competitors on an 'unbundled' basis. Why would YouTube or Netflix create shows or negotiate for programming rights if the F.C.C. requires cable and satellite TV companies to give them that same programming for free? It is hard to imagine a healthier or more dynamic market than consumer television and video programming - a market in which, you can watch 'The Walking Dead' on your phone. This is the last place government should be clamping down new regulations.

Read More at the New York Times

Leaked Consultant's Report Reveals Decrepit Equipment and Clueless FCC Field Enforcement Personnel

Soon, you'll understand why so many FCC enforcement cases seem arbitrary, capricious, and Kafkaesque.

To quote an FCC field agent: "We could do a great job, if only we understood what we're supposed to be doing!"

The FCC engaged OceanEast and Censeo in October 2014 to conduct an organizational assessment of the Enforcement Bureau's (EB) Field operations in order to identify whether Field resources were being used in an efficient manner aligned with FCC mission and policy priorities in the current state and for the long term. OceanEast was paid $845,520 in FY15 by FCC for this study. A comment at the excellent blog by our friend Dr. Marcus states: "Author of PPT is listed as Daniel Cataldi of Censeo. A number of the senior management at Censeo appear to be connected with Jon Wilkins, Managing Director of the FCC. Mr. Wilkins stated to a room full of people (Meeting Room 1, (adjoining the FCC Chairman's office) that this now-leaked report did not exist." We have no way of verifying this statement, but we have seen the same information elsewhere.

Read it here

The executive summary

The original Leblanc and Wheeler reply letters to Congress, with the FCC's rationalization for the field reorganization, and the submission to Congress of 33 slides (out of 253) explaining their actions.

FCC Nominated for 2015 Luddite Award

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation has announced its nominees for the 2015 Luddite Awards. The FCC makes the list For the "Worst of the Worst Innovation Killers" for its net neutrality ruling. "The Internet in general and broadband networks in particular are continually improving through innovation. But in an effort to freeze network innovation, the Federal Communications Commission, at the urging of a wide range of neo-Luddite organizations, enacted regulations to protect 'net neutrality,' a rather nebulous concept, generally standing for the principle that broadband networks should treat all data packets alike, even if they have different network needs. This will significantly constrain network innovation," ITIF said. The "winners" will be announced in late January.

Read more.

FCC Enforcement Bureau: Arbitrary - Abusive - Misguided - Selective - Frivolous - Contrary to Law

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, December, 2015

With visions of New York Times headlines dancing in its head, the FCC currently has little interest in doing bread-and-butter enforcement work. This became clear to me during the Commission's consideration of the Enforcement Bureau's field reorganization plan. Many people, including from within the Bureau itself, told me that the Commission simply did not think that field agents did important work. Tower inspections didn't generate excitement. Ensuring that broadcast stations operated in a manner consistent with their licenses was passe'. Pirate radio was a distraction.

Indeed, a whistleblower within the Enforcement Bureau gave me an October 28, 2014 email from the Bureau's Northeast Regional Director (George 'Mike' Moffitt) to field agents that included the following instructions: "We are scaling back on our response to pirate operations. Barring interference to a safety service, pirates should NOT be given a high priority (If there's interference to a safety service, it's not a 'pirate case' but instead a 'safety case.')" The email went on to state that "[w]e will NOT be issuing NALs to the majority of pirate operators." This is powerful evidence of the FCC's misguided enforcement priorities.

Instead of going after companies for conduct that Americans actually complain about and that could actually violate our rules, we're chasing press. Over the last couple of years, I've received many complaints about the Enforcement Bureau. For example, some allege that the Bureau engages in selective prosecution, targeting disfavored companies while letting favored companies off the hook. Others maintain that the Bureau conducts abusive and frivolous investigations.

Link

FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly, September, 2015

The Commission reiterates our firm position, as articulated in the Communications Act and Commission rules, that unauthorized broadcast operations within the FM and AM radio broadcast bands - often referred to as pirate radio broadcasting - is strictly prohibited and subject to enforcement measures. Violations are not to be taken lightly, as the harmful interference caused by pirate operations sabotages licensed broadcasters serving their communities