California Legislators Want to Tax Text Messages

Text messageA California regulator’s plan to tax texts in order to fund cellphones for the poor hit a snag Wednesday after a Federal Communications Commission ruled text messages aren’t subject to the utility agency’s authority.

The decision by the FCC, which categorized text messages as “information services” on par with emails and not “telecommunications services,” came in an effort to combat robo-texts and spam messages. The California Public Utilities Commission now faces an uphill battle ahead of a scheduled vote on the measure next month.

Those opposed to the planned tax hailed the FCC decision a victory.

“We hope that the CPUC recognizes that taxing text messages is bad for consumers,” Jamie Hastings, senior vice president of external and state affairs for CTIA, which represents the U.S. wireless communications industry, told The Mercury News. “Taxing this service would burden those who rely on and use this service each and every day.”

The CPUC has not yet commented on the FCC’s decision. The group is scheduled to meet next on Jan. 10 in San Francisco. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

California’s Net Neutrality Bill Faces a Grim Fate

internetAll eyes are on California on Wednesday as a State Assembly committee considers moving forward a net neutrality bill that could lead to the strongest open internet protections in the country.

If passed in its current form and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, the legislation could set a new nationwide standard of comprehensive protections to replace the Obama-era rules thrown out by the Trump administration. But a report issued late Tuesday by the Assembly’s Communications and Conveyance Committee suggests lawmakers plan to gut key provisions of the bill.

Groups supporting net neutrality, such as Fight for the Future, had warned earlier on Tuesday that Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles who chairs the committee, was planning to introduce amendments that would strip the bill of its most aggressive protections. They accused him of succumbing to pressures from AT&T, which has donated to his campaigns.

The group blasted the chairman’s report ahead of the hearing.

“If Assemblyman Santiago does not change course, he will become the first Democrat to actively help the Trump administration dismantle net neutrality protections that are essential for a free and open Internet,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future.

The contest in California has drawn the attention of national Democrats, who had hoped the California bill would help spur their own efforts to restore federal net neutrality protections passed in 2015, which the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission threw out in December. The rules officially expired last week. …

Click here to read the full article from CNET

California Legislature Moving to Pass Super Net Neutrality

CyberThe California Senate passed a super “Net Neutrality” law just as the Obama-era regulation of the Internet is set to be expire on April 23.

ARS Technica reported California Senate Bill SB 822 was passed out of Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications on an 8-3 vote this week to prohibit Internet service providers (ISP) like AT&T and Spectrum from charging fees to “edge providers” that supply content to “end users” that are the recipients of content.

The bill goes farther than the federal regulatory effort because of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

CLRA allows California lawyers to form class action lawsuits to sue corporations to enjoin methods, acts, or practices; restitution of property; punitive damages; court costs and attorney’s fees; and any other relief that the court deems proper. What makes it a wildly profitable business for ambulance chasers is the structure that plaintiff attorney’s fees are recoverable, but defendant’s attorney costs are usually not recoverable.

Net neutrality has always sounded user friendly in forcing Internet service providers (ISP)s to not slow down, speed up, or block data as it is routed from its content originator to end users, but it was lobbying by Silicon Valley companies to the tune of $139.5 millionin 2014 that led to regulating the Internet under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, making ISPs public utilities subject to the iron grip of theFederal Communications Commission (FCC).

But in the highly competitive free market of multiple ISPs, consumers can easily flip vendors. AT&T’s blocking of Apple’s FaceTime video chat application on iPhones in 2012 and 2013 for eating up too much bandwidth capacity led to massive amounts of defections to other ISP’s. AT&T was forced to increase capacity and allow unlimited FaceTime.

California’s net neutrality would go much further than the FCC rules by being more restrictive of paid prioritization and zero-rating, which allow consumers to access certain Internet content and services without it counting against their monthly data plans.

Democrat-dominated Washington and Oregon have already passed their own net neutrality laws after the December 2017 FCC repeal vote. Vermont, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, and New York governors have issued executive orders that impose net neutrality rules on ISPs that provide Internet service to any state government agencies.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Why the American Conservative Union Declined Meeting with Zuckerberg, Facebook

WASHINGTON DC — This past weekend, a senior representative from Facebook contacted me to invite American Conservative Union to attend a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and other conservative leaders to discuss the allegations that Facebook suppressed conservative content. We appreciate their invitation, especially since our organization and annual conference, CPAC, were specifically targeted.

However, we do not believe that the problem between Facebook and CPAC and the broader conservative community is merely a communication problem. Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg are drawing the wrong conclusion from the negative response from conservatives. It appears that they believe they can avoid having to answer for their actions by hosting conservative luminaries at their state-of-the-art headquarters.

Facebook has a history of agitating against conservatives and conservative policies, especially when it comes to ACU’s own conference, CPAC.  The facts are:

1) Facebook staff has admitted to suppressing content about CPAC.

2) Facebook rejected ACU’s overtures for Facebook to play a meaningful role at CPAC.

3) The deck is stacked:  CPAC content egregiously underperforms on Facebook compared to Twitter and other platforms by factors of 10.

4) The Facebook Trending News Chief, Tom Stocky is a maxed-out donor to Hillary Clinton.

5) Of the 1,000 political donations from Facebook employees, 80 percent have gone to liberals.

6) Facebook holds liberal positions on important issues such as privacy, property and priests.

We will not be attending this meeting. We know one meeting cannot possibly resolve all of the above mentioned issues.

ACU would, of course, prefer to have real engagement with Facebook about whether pastors and priests can have full access to Facebook, or if we could come to terms on the FCC’s intrusive rule-making on privacy, or how we could actually protect intellectual property owners.

Facebook has harmed its credibility with conservatives, but if they want to mend the relationship, we’re happy to sit down with their experts about how they can better strike a balance between sterile algorithms choosing news content and when a human curator decides to put a finger on the scale. If Facebook wants the benefit of the doubt, they need to start with complete transparency on how decisions are made concerning its newsfeeds.

Inducing people to sign-up for a Facebook account under the potentially fraudulent assertion that the company is neutral on news content has serious repercussions. We applaud Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune’s (R-SD/ACU Life Rating: 86 percent) efforts to ask the tough questions so Facebook users can know the truth.

This is much bigger than just having a meeting with “leading conservatives,” and winning the day’s news cycle.  The Gizmodo story has exposed the rift between Facebook’s liberal perspective and the hundred million Americans who self-identify as conservative.   We hope to have substantive interactions that can begin to resolve these issues.

Net Neutrality = Regulate My Competitor

In a major development in the ongoing debate over net neutrality, President Obama announced his support for a strict regulatory regime to govern the Internet. The President framed the discussion around a good-faith need to protect innovators and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, he has fallen for a cynical ploy that some Silicon Valley companies and advocacy groups are using to push an extreme regulatory agenda for the Internet.

Unfortunately, the innovative companies we take for granted to enrich our lives are not always the altruistic companies we think they are especially when it comes to exerting influence in Washington.

Take for example Netflix, who has transformed from a DVD mail order business to a dominant leader in streaming video. They have mastered the ability to provide almost any digital programming directly to smartphones, tablets, and TVs. What Netflix is not yet known for is the age-old practice many companies have come to rely on, known as “regulate my competitor,” or what economists call “rent-seeking.”

By hijacking the debate over network neutrality and conflating it with a regulatory arbitrage scheme to pad its bottom line, Netflix is putting its interest above all Internet users. The network neutrality debate has always been about treating all content on the Internet the same – no blocking or impeding traffic. Now, Netflix is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to adopt a new proposal that would change the current bipartisan “light-touch” regulatory structure of today. Netflix and now President Obama want to “reclassify” broadband networks under 1930s rotary telephone laws that would make ISPs public utilities under the guise of no blocking or prioritization. However, making ISPs into utilities still won’t prevent prioritization, further revealing the “regulate my competitor” strategy Netflix has embarked on with other advocacy groups.

The Communications Workers of America recently noted that investment by the 11 largest publicly traded broadband companies rose from $56.5 billion in 2010 to $70.1 billion in 2013 while investment by content companies only rose from $9 billion to $13.2 billion in the same time frame. Clearly, the investments made by ISPs to expand Internet service dwarfs that of the content companies. ISP investments translate directly into good, U.S.-based union jobs, a situation not matched by the largely non-unionized global content companies.

It’s also important to remember that Silicon Valley’s giants rely on the investment that creates the robustness of these networks for their success. Public utility regulations will only dry up investment in networks – ultimately hurting the innovators the President and advocates claim to protect.

Analysts have noted that Netflix generates about 1/3 of all Internet traffic at peak times in the US. Traffic is so high it puts significant strain on the ISPs’ networks. To alleviate this strain, ISPs, for years, have made arrangements to connect directly with content companies in order to keep the Internet free from this congestion. These arrangements are a win for content companies, ISPs and consumers.

But these types of traffic routing arrangements, called “paid interconnection,” are not good enough for Netflix’s profit motives. Instead, by using the neutrality debate to try to force ISPs to deliver Netflix traffic for free over ISPs’ networks, subsidizing the delivery of Netflix’s massive content bandwidth. This would ultimately force all Internet users to subsidize Netflix’s bandwidth needs.

Instead of urging the FCC to regulate its competitors as public utilities, Netflix should be doing what many other content companies like Amazon and Google have done – make interconnection arrangements with ISPs or invest in their own networks to bring content closer to the end customer. This strategy will create high paying jobs in California and avoid age-old tactics like “regulate my competitor.”

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Eric Lindberg is Secretary-Treasurer Local 9423 and Next Generation Lead Activist for Communications Workers of America. Carlos Solórzano-Cuadra is CEO of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco.