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March 04, 2015

Does Net Neutrality Stand A Chance in the Courts?

The order is still not out, but the press has hailed the victory for President Obama on Net Neutrality. It is rare that history works the way people say, and I think the image of foreboding that comes most to mind is President George W. Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier with the “Mission Accomplished” sign behind him.

The order, once it is truly out, will be in the hands of the attorneys and will be contested, and I strongly expect the court will be sympathetic to the carriers’ perspective that this was an overreach by the FCC to claim the Internet falls under Title II (and 720).  

Congress is inclined to geld the FCC unless it has to do with spectrum licensing, which is one of the few revenue-gain opportunities Congress sees that will help the budget.

So with the order voted on, where does that put the opportunity?

Lawyers / Lobbyists

An effort to stay the order is already underway and if successful, the court may have tipped its hands about its perspective on the FCC’s implementation of this order. Bottom line: A lot more money will be spent fighting the order.

Wall Street / Investors

While the stock market is always efficient, it’s also a place where rumors enable speculation and risk.  The Time Warner Cable sale to Comcast seems to be a ‘canary in the coal mine’, suggesting that the FCC order will survive the stay in the courts. Wall Street has Time Warner Cable stock trading over the Comcast offer price because they see the opportunity for Comcast to vacate the deal, and Time Warner Cable to go to a higher bid. On the equipment side of the markets we should assume that small cell and DAS investments are safe and still required for the continued buildout on the edge. As for the Core, with the FCC suggesting that it is going to be monitoring IP Interconnection, it suggests that a wait and see attitude is prudent.  

Engineers / Network

Friends have suggested that all capital outlay will be slowed as a result of this order and particularly that Verizon and AT&T have little to gain by moving forward. However, as Verizon continues to migrate its landline plant to the frontier, the wireless expansion needs to continue. One possibility I see is that Ethernet and Fiber solutions become a separate part of the contract of that Internet connectivity. This in effect makes the prioritization and separate segmentation a different service. As for connectivity to Content Delivery Networks, Netflix seems to be a clear winner, but it’s unclear at this point if other CDNs can get the same bang for buck.

Consumers / Developers

First of all, sorry to lump you in together, but one thing I think the order does is accelerate the aggregation to the cloud. Developers are going to end up putting more of their solutions on Amazon Web Services and other cloud hosting systems. Likewise I see more apps being in the consumer’s future. You smartphone is going to be your gateway to the future even as the FCC tries to regulate the experience. 


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