Zero Rating by Shutterstock

Zero rating: The FCC’s war on affordable broadband

This weekend, many consumers across the nation benefited from what has become an American tradition: The Memorial Day sale. Consumers benefit from a burst of lower prices, retailers and manufacturers look forward to increased purchaser traffic, and competitors try to differentiate themselves from the crowd with bigger and better promotions. But in the world of broadband, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would prohibit an entire classification of popular sales known as zero rating. Zero rating is best understood as a category of business practices that try to tempt consumer purchases by providing more of what consumers want at lower prices. Under zero rating, a broadband carrier may lower consumer prices in one of two ways: it can decide not to count certain data against a consumer’s monthly data cap, or it can facilitate content providers “sponsoring” their own data (i.e. paying the broadband carrier a fee so that the sponsored data do not count against the consumer’s monthly data cap). The result of either business model is that consumers are able to enjoy more data for no additional charge – it’s a data sale!
Greenland Internet by Shutterstock

Broadband in Greenland: How non-neutral traffic management betters society

At first glance, it might seem that there is little to learn from the experience of a state-owned broadband network with data caps on DSL. When it comes to delivering important social services in remote areas, however, Greenland is an interesting case study. The country’s harsh climate and dispersed population have forced prioritization in the management of the network, showing that even when resources are extremely limited, choices that maximize benefits for society can still be made.
Lifeline by Shutterstock

Why we need a market-driven, consumer-focused revamp of the Lifeline program

The basic tenet of universal service – that the government should assist those who cannot afford basic access to the telecommunications network – has long been a cornerstone of the nation’s telecommunications policy. As I have discussed in an earlier post, this assistance is justified by network effects: the larger the number of people a network reaches, the more valuable that network is to each user. Universal service also supports non-economic goals such as improved civic participation, enhanced economic opportunities, free speech, and public safety. As the telephone gives way to the Internet as the nation’s primary telecommunications network, Congress must consider options to narrow the digital divide and assist low-income consumers who cannot afford basic network access.
Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the "Innocence of Muslims," holds a news conference outside her attorney's office in Los Angeles, September 20, 2012. REUTERS

The Innocence of Muslims: When IP, free speech, and national security collide

“This world here,” Seinfeld’s George Costanza famously exclaimed, “this is George’s sanctuary. If Susan comes into contact with this world, his worlds collide!” As in George’s dystopian nightmare, the worlds of intellectual property, free speech, and national security collided on Monday in an important ruling issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that Google needn’t remove from its various platforms (primarily YouTube) the film “The Innocence of Muslims.” This ruling came despite the copyright and security claims of one of the film’s “performers.” While the court’s reasoning appears sound, we can expect even more complex conundrums in the future.