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First POST: Throne Games, Phone Games

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, May 15 2014

Throne Games, Phone Games

  • As the FCC takes up Chairman Tom Wheeler's controversial proposal to allow paid prioritization (i.e. fast-lane) services online today, stop and read Ben Popper's story "Game of Phones: How Verizon Is Playing the FCC and Its Customers" in The Verge.

  • Popper draws heavily on a new report from NY's Public Utility Law Project, written by New Networks, showing that Verizon told state regulators it was building its FIOS (high-speed fiber to the home) service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which allowed it to build on top of existing telephone infrastructure and, crucially, to justify huge increases in "plain old telephone service" bills--some 84% between 2006 and 2009. But Verizon has used the billions it thus raised in capital to build wireless services that it now is arguing are beyond Title II''s common carrier provisions and shouldn't be regulated as such--a nifty and lucrative bait and switch.

  • Columbia's Tim Wu commented to Popper: "The last 15 years have been pretty much great for everyone; it is AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast who want to break from current patterns and impose a de-facto tax on the rest of the internet economy, starting with internet video….To do that, the FCC needs the authority to ban degradation, fast lanes, and other ways of imposing a tax on the internet economy; the clearest source of such authority is Title II of the Telecom Act. It shows how obvious it is that broadband has become a utility, when, if your reporting is correct, Verizon itself sees it that way."

  • Was New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson fired yesterday because she had asked to be paid comparably to her male predecessors, as Ken Auletta of the New Yorker suggests?

  • Or was she let go because she mismanaged her relationship with her #2 (and successor) Dean Baquet, as David Carr and Ravi Romaiya of the Times suggest, in particular over her desire to hire Janine Gibson, the Guardian's US editor-in-chief, to work alongside Baquet?

  • Or was it Times publisher and chairman Arthur Sulzberger's evident discomfort with Abramson's stardom and self-promotion (something the Times brass never minded when the executive editor was a self-promoting man), as Edmund Lee of Bloomberg suggests?

  • Or was it her gutsy decision to send a reporter to England to investigate the role of Mark Thompson, the BBC director general that Sulzberger picked to be his new CEO, in a sexual harassment scandal there, which pissed off both Thompson and Sulzberger, as Gabriel Sherman suggests in New York?

  • Whatever the reason, read Rebecca Traister's take in the New Republic on how Abramson's firing is another example of not the glass ceiling, but "the glass cliff": "what happens when people who've long been sidelined from power finally get a chance at prominent jobs, but only when the power and possibility of those positions has eroded."

  • Today in whistleblowing: In the wake of the current Veterans Administration hospital scandal, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are partnering with the Project on Government Oversight to launch VAOversight.org, encouraging VA employees to leak inside information to POGO, Buzzfeed's Evan McMorris-Santoro reports.

  • Harvard's Jonathan Zittrain's New York Times' op-ed says the European Court of Justice's ruling against Google yesterday is "both too broad and curiously narrow." It doesn't actually create a full "right to be forgotten" online, nor does it provide a workable solution to help individuals protect their reputations online from outdated search results.

  • The conflict between Airbnb and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is far from over.

  • David Brock is launching RealKochFacts.com today.