Friday, August 20, 2010

Improving the FCC’s Data Collection and Disclosure Practices

I filed comments in the FCC’s inquiry into how it can improve its data collection practices in the Media, Wireless Telecommunications and Wireline Competitions Bureaus (MB Docket No. 10-103, WT Docket No. 10-131 and WC Docket No. 10-132); available at: FCC Data Inquiry.

Here are my suggestions:

1) Refuse to grant blanket trade secret/confidentiality requests from stakeholders, particularly where a statutory mandate obligates the Commission to identify instances where the lack of competition or availability of even a single service provider frustrates achievement of national goals. The Commission should not redact, sanitize and obscure data, the disclosure of which would serve the public interest, help the Commission achieve statutory goals, and would not cause any financial or competitive harm to the reporting party;

2) Establish a rebuttable presumption that the public is entitled to understandable, credible, granular, and reproducible statistics, based on reasonable benchmarks that can help the Commission and users of the data make valid comparisons;

3) Place the burden on acquiring ventures to demonstrate that acquisitions will not adversely impact competition and the public interest;

4) Distinguish between data and sponsored research/advocacy;

5) Use peer review and third party research; and

6) Eschew reliance on ex parte presentations and brokering deals/concessions among major stakeholders; return to hearings, fact finding and creation of a comprehensive evidentiary record.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Does Granny Need a Platinum Plan to Get Her Mission Critical Medical Bits Timely Delivered?

In previous posts and academic writings I have parted with network neutrality advocates who want absolute parity of access. I agree with Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett (see that heart pacemaker telemetry should get priority over surfing squirrels on the Internet, but only when current network conditions necessitate such prioritization. This is key: if under current network conditions the telemetry feed would get near instantaneous routing, then what good would absolute prioritization do?

Generally the surfing squirrel video clip and the telemetry feed experience no congestion and hold up. If and only if delays, dropped packets, resend commands and any other problem would likely occur under the best efforts norm, then I would support better than best efforts routing.

Even the Google-Verizon proposal acknowledges that the prioritization accorded specialized and managed traffic should not become so widespread as to eliminate the plain vanilla best efforts option. These two players appear to state that better than best efforts should apply solely to “additional or differentiated services” and that the exception should not swallow up the norm.

But of course this requires everyone to be on their best, yankee doodle-dandy behavior, eschewing any and all opportunities to tilt the competitive playing field in favor of a corporate affiliate or favored venture. I have noted that at least insofar as cable television operators are concerned, the FCC worries when a venture has both the incentive and the ability to act anticompetitively. No one has to disparage Comcast and the character of its managers to note that blocking, distorting and throttling peer-to-peer traffic might directly or indirectly handicap a technological alternative to video on demand and pay per view.

I would like to think that the template Google and Verizon now join in advocating is not a front for a partitioning ISP networks to all but guarantee that medical telemetry subscribers will have to buy the platinum plan.