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Tech at Night: Net Neutrality goes to court, FCC still runs amok, Sprint admits there’s competition

Tech at Night

Net Neutrality goes to court. Great news, too: Verizon’s preferred venue won the lottery, and the Net Neutrality fight will happen in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. This is, of course, the same circuit that slapped down Net Neutrality last time in Comcast v FCC.

Oh, but here’s a big surprise. Despite the FCC claiming previously that “We look forward to defending our open Internet framework in court,” they’re actually doing everything they can not to have to defend it in court by attempting to get Verizon’s appeal dismissed. So much for that day in court.

As for Sprint Nextel, even as they sue claiming competition will be impaired if T-Mobile and AT&T join up, their own strategy update presentation admitted the truth. See the 9:46AM slide, showing the growth rate of the year-on-year net postpaid subscribers across the top four providers. In 2010, Sprint was the only one to accelerate, while AT&T saw the biggest drop in its growth. In the first half of 2011, Verizon and Sprint are accelerating, while would-be deal makers AT&T and T-Mobile look on pace to notch their third and fifth (respectively) years of slower growth.

Yes, that’s right. Sprint’s gaining subscribers at a faster clip, and is trying to keep the laggards from combining to keep the pressure (and 4G prices) up. And they’ve gotten the Barack Obama/Eric Holder Department of Justice to help, using your taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile, the next big thing at the FCC is so-called Universal Service Fund reform. Obama FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made a big speech about it, making it clear USF reform would be what I said all along it would be: taxing you to pay for other people’s Internet connections. And to justify it, he’s fudging the numbers. Per Tech Liberation Front, he’s contradicting the FCC’s own National Broadband Plan’s figures to claim 18 million Americans lack access to ‘broadband’ Internet. The FCC will also pick technologies, and decide on winners and losers, when handing out these subsidies.

Apparently the new name for this program will be the Connect America Fund. I expect industry support will be easy to get for this program, for three reasons. First, hey, it’s a subsidy. Second, the USF was originally designed to get basic phone service to people, which is an obsolete goal. Third, it’s being tied to reform of the old intercarrier compensation programs which allow various providers to gouge one another, hindering service and making everyone look bad, as well as making it harder actually to call people. Marsha Blackburn and Joe Barton are asking for the program to be limited in scope and to exclude any markets with unsubsidized providers already. But we’ll see what the FCC tries to pull at its October 27 meeting.

According to CTIA, San Francisco is lying about mobile phone technology. So much for the San Francisco Democrats being pro-science.

One good thing may come out of the budget supercommittee: more spectrum.

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