Jonathan Decker on April 22, 2020 | Promote Economic Growth

by Jon Decker


In America we are accustomed to technology improving. Yet strangely, one technological problem innovation hasn’t solved is television blackouts — in fact, they are becoming more frequent.


In 2010, there were only 8 television blackouts.  By 2019, that number had risen to 276. This increase is due to more frequent disagreements between Multichannel Video Program Distributors (cable, satellite and telco operators) and broadcasters over ever-growing fees that broadcast is demanding on the retransmission of content — fees that they were not entitled to until 1992.


As Dr. George S. Ford with the Phoenix Center noted:


Ever since the 1992 Cable Act allowed broadcasters to charge multichannel video distribution providers (MVPDs) for retransmission rights of their signals, broadcasters have demanded (and received) increasingly high retransmission fees. Between 2006 and 2019, retransmission fees rose from $215 million to $11.7 billion. Today, MVPDs pay about $11 per subscriber/month for over-the-air broadcast signals, raising consumers’ bills. The fee was $0 before the 1992 Cable Act.


This has been less of an issue for direct-broadcast satellite like Dish and DirecTV (now owned by AT&T) than cable because under a law called STELAR they have been licensed to negotiate with network outlets from other markets if they cannot reach an agreement with local affiliates.  That license is set to expire June 1.


If this dispute is not resolved quickly, that shapes up as a date hundreds of thousands of consumers could soon lose local television coverage – and at a time where the fallback option of buying and installing an antenna is even less practical than usual. ...

Phil Kerpen on April 21, 2020 | Protect the Free-Market Internet

By Phil Kerpen

Not even a global pandemic can keep us from another battle in the long, bitter, and ever more disconnected from reality net neutrality wars.  The FCC just closed yet another comment period in this seemingly never-ending saga, and the usual let-wing groups used it to beat their usual drums. 

But as millions of Americans bunker in their homes typing away on laptops, smartphones, and tablets while watching their smart TVs in between their streaming video calls, we should take stock in the marvelous fact that the Internet is holding up just fine while an enormous surge of formerly offline activities move online.

For two glorious years the left achieved their goal of reducing the Internet to a regulated public utility – and nothing they said would happen did.  There was no nirvana for users or rebirth of political freedom.  There was a deficit of investment and a boom in paperwork and bureaucratic nonsense and that's about it.

Then it was repealed by President Trump's pick for FCC chairman, Ajit Pai – in the face of a hyperbolic pitched political mobilization exercise in which the media and left wing groups claimed the world would end without the Obama net neutrality regulations that had existed for all of two years.  The hyberbolic mania reached new levels of extremism – up to and including death threats leveled at the young children of members of Congress and Chairman Pai and a bomb threat called into the FCC on the day of the vote.

Of course nothing the angry net neutrality obsessives alleged would happen came to pass.  Instead, we saw an incredible increase in network capacity, speed, and resilience as ISPs felt confident that their network investment would not be divested from them in the fever dream of the Marxist leaders of the net neutrality movement, like Free Press founder Robert McChesney.

Now, many of us sit in our homes waiting for the virus lockdown to lift, surrounded by children doing their school work and recreation on their computers and tablets while we take video call after video call ourselves.

It is hard to think of any greater enhancement to public safety, quality of life, and simple sanity during a period of prolonged home confinement than having reliable, fast, high quality network connectivity.  The current pro-investment, pro-market policy has produced that outcome.

Europe – which has taken a more heavy handed regulatory approach than the Pai FCC – is having a different experience, with many countries throttling video traffic to prevent networks from breaking down.

Even Tom Wheeler, the former titular FCC chairman who adopted the Obama net neutrality order at the direction of the White House, has been forced to acknowledge the stunning outperformance of U.S. broadband networks compared to Europe. "Credit is due to the nation’s broadband providers. The fact we can work from home is the result of hundreds of billions of investment dollars and construction and operational skill," he said.

What he didn't mention is that the...

Jonathan Decker on April 20, 2020 | Protect Property Rights

by Jon Decker


An interesting intellectual property battle is brewing in South Africa where President Cyril Ramaphosa has considered signing a bill that directly attacks American copyright holders — and the Trump administration has threatened retaliation.


South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill puts ‘America Last’ by effectively reducing copyright protections from the nation’s current standard — life of the author plus 50 years — to a new standard which only allows creators to contractually enforce their copyrights for 25 years from the date of copyright.  That means artists losing control over their works during their own lifetimes, a huge step backwards in a country whose current standards are well below “the gold standard” of copyright protections here in the U.S. of life of the author plus 70 years.


Limiting copyright terms to less than the life of the author/creator violates a core property rights principal, which is that we have an ownership right in the product of our own minds.  That principal has been well established for hundreds of years, going back to the great natural rights philosopher John Locke, who wrote in 1695: "for those who purchase copies from authors that now live and write it may be reasonable to limit their property to a certain number of years after the death of the author or the first printing of the book as suppose 50 or 70 years.”


Translation: America’s artists and publishers are already subject to a term of protection in South Africa that is shorter than American and global standards.  We want to hold them to a higher standard on copyright protections, not a lower one that violates one of the core principles of intellectual property.


Trump’s trade team has responded to this legislation with some characteristically heavy-handed negotiation tactics. The Office of the US Trade Representative announced a new review...

Jonathan Decker on April 20, 2020 | End Regulatory Tyranny

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                         

April 20, 2020                                                              


American Commitment Comments from Lockdown on Yet Another Round in the Net Neutrality Wars


Washington, D.C.—American Commitment is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to complete its repeal of the Obama-era “net neutrality” regulations.  In response to a new public comment period that was supposed to be about technical issues, American Commitment president Phil Kerpen has submitted public comments commending Chairman Ajit Pai’s “commitment to fixing the ideologically motivated, economically ignorant actions of the Obama FCC.”  The comment urges the commission to “complete the repeal of the Obama regulations and let America keep on relying on the Internet to keep getting better, faster, more innovative and more reliable.”


“As Americans live in lockdown during the coronavirus panic, we are all more acutely aware of how critical it is to have reliable, fast, high quality network connectivity,” said Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment.  “We must not go backwards to the Obama-era federal takeover of the Internet—especially as we watch Europe’s networks strain under the burden of excessive regulation.  Reducing the Internet to a public utility controlled by federal bureaucrats would only impose sweeping new taxes on Americans, undermine free speech, eliminate competition and innovation, and destroy the private investment in infrastructure that is leading to unparalleled improvements in Internet speeds and reliability that Americans are depending on now more than ever.”


The comment notes of the Obama regulations: “For the two glorious years that the left achieved their goal of reducing the Internet to a regulated public utility there was no nirvana for uses or rebirth of political freedom.  There was a deficit of investment and a boom in paperwork and bureaucratic nonsense.”