Platform Access

Proposed LA Airbnb Regulations Raise Serious Privacy Concerns

By Tim Sparapani:

Los Angeles is considering new regulations around Airbnb, and other home-sharing platforms, that should deeply worry anyone who cares about keeping their personal information private. If approved, the regulations would require people who rent out space via a home-sharing platform to hold on to three years’ worth of information about who rented their property for how long and at what price. The Office of Finance would have the right to inspect these records at any time.

It’s unclear exactly why the government is proposing this level of privacy invasion. The main thrust of the proposed legislation, which will eventually need to be approved by the LA City Council, is to set out guidelines and fines that would ensure a level of safety and accountability for home rentals. This market is growing quickly. According to a recent poll by Time magazine, 26% of the population has used a home-sharing service. As such, it’s not a stretch for the government to set some commonsense rules around the market and collect taxes from commercial activity.

But the invasion of privacy outlined in the Los Angeles proposal will create unnecessary risks for consumers.

Think about when you check into a hotel. If you pay with a credit card, the hotel will likely look at your driver’s license to make sure it matches the name on the card, but they don’t have to. If you pay with cash, they don’t need any kind of proof of identity. You pay your money and you get your room.

So why is the sharing economy potentially going to be held to a different standard?

Read the full article here.

ASCAP Just Proved The Continuing Need For The Consent Decrees

The licensing mega-group’s settlement with the DOJ is proof that the consent decrees are as important and relevant as ever.

By Mike Montgomery

On Friday, the American Society of Composers and Performers agreed to pay the Department of Justice $1.75 million to settle allegations of anticompetitive behavior. Despite the presence of consent decrees that specifically bar ASCAP (and BMI) from interfering with songwriters’ ability to strike direct deals for the licensing of their works, the licensing behemoth was caught red-handed flexing its oversized market muscle to block – not once, not twice, but 150 times – its songwriter and publisher members from licensing their performance rights directly to streaming services.

ASCAP is basically agreeing to do what it was legally required to do all along, but now throwing nearly $2 million down the drain that should instead have been distributed to songwriters.

It would be unbelievable were it not so typical of ASCAP’s consistent bad behavior.

ASCAP (and BMI, which collectively hold the rights to 90 percent of all music licenses) has proven how willing it is to wield its market power to squash competition, which harms songwriters and the prospects of a healthy, modern music marketplace. They trot their members out to Capitol Hill to cry poverty then report record annual royalty revenues of $1 billion – where is all that money going? They claim to have the best interest of their songwriters at heart, but at the same time leverage their enormous market power and comfy relationships with publishers on their Board (a clear conflict of interest that DoJ also is shutting down as a result of the settlement) to prevent songwriters from negotiating direct deals that may actually be in their best interest.

ASCAP’s response to DoJ? They had the audacity to say, “(w)ith these issues resolved, we continue our focus on…key reforms to the laws that govern music creator compensation.”

Why should the government award such behavior by even considering altering the consent decrees? The consent decrees have protected artists and helped enable the rise of music streaming, which is proving to be the most promising new revenue source for artists since the CD came along. Clearly they remain not only relevant, but essential.

Allowing a few big players at the top to use their market power to artificially increase the pricing of music won’t help songwriters. What it will help do is divert revenue opportunities from songwriters, chill innovation and competition, and turn consumers away from legal sources of music.

It doesn’t take a Berklee degree in Music Business to see that this will ultimately lead to a depression, not acceleration, in royalty revenues for songwriters and artists and what’s needed is increased transparency and a continuing adherence to the consent decrees.

Whether ASCAP likes it or not, the consent decrees work. They keep those tempted by untoward acts in-line. If anyone thinks that wouldn’t happen without the consent decrees, they need only to look to ASCAP’s settlement for proof.

Mike Montgomery is executive director of CALinnovates, a technology advocacy coalition.

This piece originally ran in Radio & Television Business Report, and can be viewed here.

FCC’s Set-Top Proposal Draws Crowd

By: John Eggerton

Commenters flooded the FCC Friday, the deadline for initial input on chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to “unlock” MVPD set-top box info and share it with third-party navigation devices.

“No demonstrable market problem exists to justify the kind of intrusive tech mandates proposed by the Commission,” said the Free State Foundation. “And it highly doubtful that any conceivable benefit could outweigh the heavy costs that the Commission now ignores – costs which will initially be paid by MVPDs or program content owners, but will ultimately be paid by consumers. The Commission performed no cost-benefit analysis of its proposal prior to its Notice. Nor did it even seek input to conduct such an analysis.”

Agreeing that it was an unnecessary and counterproductive government attempt to enforce tech policy on an innovative space was California tech advocacy group CALinnovates.

“Our analysis found that the FCC’s proposal would result in higher bills,” said CALinnovates executive director Mike Montgomery of the group’s filing. “It is apparent that with this set-top box proposal the FCC is missing the forest for the trees.  Specifically, the Commission obsesses over the size of one ancient, crumbling tree – missing the thriving vegetation sprouting around it.”

The Telecommunications Industry Association, which represents the manufacturers and suppliers of communications networks, was another critic of the proposal. TIA said in its filing that the FCC is operating on the faulty premise that the marketplace is not “replete” with navigation choices. It also says the standards setting provisions “could lead to device incompatibility, and risk pre-determining which technologies will prevail over time, contrary to widely followed standards making protocols.”

Read the full article here.

This piece can also be viewed here on Multichannel News.

FCC Set-Top Box Proposal Based Upon Faulty Economic Foundation, Will Harm Consumers, Innovators And Golden Age Of Television, Warns CALinnovates

Proposal Based Upon Flawed Data Fails to Embrace Consumer-Driven Promise of App-Based Future

SAN FRANCISCOApril 22, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) set-top box proposal is an example of a one-size-fits-all tech mandate that rarely if ever works in practice and should be scuttled, tech advocacy group CALinnovates said in its filing to the agency.

“Our analysis found that the FCC’s proposal would result in higher bills, more advertisements, and less diversity and innovation on TV,” said CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery. “It is apparent that with this set-top box proposal the FCC is missing the forest for the trees.  Specifically, the Commission obsesses over the size of one ancient, crumbling tree – missing the thriving vegetation sprouting around it.”

In its filing, CALinnovates warns that the rulemaking is unnecessary given the breakneck speed of innovation in the marketplace. “Indeed, with change proceeding at such a rapid pace, one can only imagine how much the video consumption market will advance and reinvent itself before the FCC could even promulgate, much less implement, a final rule,” added Montgomery.

CALinnovates’ filing also included an in-depth analysis by Dr. Christian M. Dippon of NERA Economic Consulting. Dr. Dippon’s economic analysis highlights the number of ways that the FCC’s proposal will harm the entire video distribution ecosystem, including customers, suppliers, MVPDs, and content creators.

“If the FCC nevertheless implements its proposed regulations, there is no realistic promise of lower prices and increased innovation,” writes Dr. Dippon. “To the contrary, any intervention in a competitive market stands to harm the market, its participants, and ultimately consumers.”

Read the full release here.

FCC Proposal Threatens Innovation, TV’s Current Golden Age

By: Mike Montgomery

By any standard, it’s never been easier to watch what you want, when you want it, how you want it. Things like AppleTVRoku and Amazon’s Firestick bring Internet streaming to your television while apps like FXNow, HBOGo and WatchESPN bring television viewing to tablets and phones. The viewing worlds are converging and all of us who love TV are much better off because of it.

Yet for some reason, the FCC is trying to scramble the delicate balance that has enabled this Golden Age of content by forcing cable and satellite companies to undo the intricate deals they have put together with content creators in Hollywood and around the world to distribute the content consumers enjoy access to today and open those streams up to anyone who wants to repackage them.

The FCC claims that the proposal is meant to spur innovation. But that seems to be a ridiculous statement on two fronts.

First, we already have plenty of competition and innovation coming from new streaming boxes. Look at Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, etc.

Second, the proposal actually undermines the cable and satellite companies’ incentive to innovate. Under the FCC’s proposal, the companies would have to disclose any technological innovation before introducing it. This would give any competitors plenty of time to copy those innovations and implement them on their own.

Would the companies that are clamoring for this deal want that same standard to apply in the tech industry? From my view running a tech advocacy coalition, the answer is a resounding “NO!”

Read the full article here.

Announcement by Comcast, Roku and Samsung highlights illusory narrative from FCC on set-top boxes

April 20th, 2016

“Today’s announcement that Xfinity customers will be able to access their content via the Roku platform, HTML5 apps and connected TVs such as the Samsung Smart TV without the need for a leased or owned set-top box is the latest example of how users can watch what they want, when they want and how they want. It’s also a not-so-subtle reminder to the FCC that innovation is happening at breakneck speed and is being driven by consumer demand rather than regulatory intervention. Innovation, such as the Xfinity Partner Program, continues to reshape the entertainment horizon.

Moving forward, we expect more examples of how live broadcast TV, on-demand options and gaming will continue to converge to the delight of consumers, their viewing preferences and their checkbooks. Soon the days of set-top boxes will be a distant memory. The Xfinity TV Partner Program announcement further cements our views that regulatory intervention in the set-top box market is unwarranted, as the future, according to consumers, is app-driven rather than box-driven. Despite today’s outstanding news from Comcast, Roku and Samsung, the FCC continues to careen down a perilous path that endangers future investment and innovation in the virtuous cycle that supports the current Golden Age of television.”

Netflix Exploited a Gaping Loophole in Net Neutrality Regulations

By: Mike Montgomery

Netflix hasn’t looked this bad since the whole Qwikster fiasco.

The streaming video company recently admitted that is has been throttling data speeds for customers watching Netflix on Verizon and AT&T-powered devices. If you’re one of those unlucky Netflix subscribers, like me, and were wondering why your video stream wasn’t as glossy and smooth as it should have been, now you know the reason.

Apparently, this has been going on for five years. So while Netflix was not only lobbying the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and demanding that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) be prohibited from a litany of items that most everyone agrees are bad for the digital era, the streaming giant alleged that certain ISPs (such as Verizon) were throttling Netflix’s video traffic to their customers. The FCC relied on that misrepresentation as a basis for their regulatory intervention.

Netflix is defending itself by saying that it wasn’t trying to hurt customers. In fact, it was trying to help them because video uses a lot of data so they were just trying to save customers from the expense of exceeding their data limits. But secretively slowing traffic on its own network to a large base of its subscribers while blaming others is simply abhorrent behavior from a previously trusted brand.

And terribly hypocritical.

The Netflix story should teach everyone even remotely interested in the Net Neutrality debate that there are entities in the Internet ecosystem, beyond ISPs, that have the ability and power to impact the future of an Open Internet.

I’d like to say I’m surprised but I’m not. When the FCC decided last year to regulate the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act, I wrote that this wasn’t the end of the fight. Although many supporters felt they had won a major victory, I pointed out that the rule was not going to be enough.

While ISPs are now required to treat all data equally, “edge providers” like Netflix do not need to abide by those same rules. So while Netflix argued that companies like Verizon were throttling its content, Netflix was lying to regulators, the press and consumers.

Read the full article here.

Cutting Down the Nets: How the FTC Can Take Consumer Privacy Defense to the Next Level

By: Tim Sparapani

It’s late in the college basketball season and just as the best teams have to improve their defense in order to win a championship, it may be time for our privacy regulators to try increasing their defensive intensity in order to deter and prevent additional consumer privacy violations. Just like in basketball, sometimes it takes switching up your tactics and your defense to take your team’s game up to a new level.

The challenges for policing misuse of consumers’ data are getting harder, not easier for regulators on the privacy beat. Those regulators – chiefly the Federal Trade Commission and the state Attorneys General – have performed admirably during an age when accidental or clumsy data breaches are now daily events, and cyber attacks – many successful – are now the norm, not the exception. The FTC like a 7 foot-tall center is well-practiced at swatting away the easy, slam dunk cases where companies deceive consumers about their privacy practices ranging from neglect, to poor cross-company coordination, to outright lies. Yet, as a longtime privacy and consumer advocate I’m eager to see more done. I want to shout “De-Fense!” – or, maybe “Un-Fair-Ness!” and exhort the FTC to do more for consumers and in a new way.

Let’s be honest, however, the FTC has resource constraints; it simply cannot police every violation of consumer trust or misuse of consumers’ data by a corporation. Nor is privacy defense the only role assigned to the FTC. The FTC is statutorily required to enforce dozens of consumer protection statutes, and its work on consumer data privacy, while it has lead to groundbreaking and important results, is limited by a lack of staff and intricacies of sophisticated new scams. The FTC’s data privacy work is also limited by the fast-moving pace of technologies. New systems are brought to the public and then obviated by subsequent iterations often within months, not years.

Read the full article here.

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