Pioneers Chair and Professor of Telecommunications and Law
Joined on November 20, 2007 – United States
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Rob Frieden serves as Pioneers Chair and Professor of Telecommunications and Law at Penn State University. Professor Frieden has written several books, published over fifty articles in academic journals and provided commentary in a variety of print, broadcast and Internet media. He has provided updates to two major communications treatises: Modern Communications Law (West Publishing) and All About Cable (Law Journal Press).
Before accepting an academic appointment, Professor Frieden served as Deputy Director International Relations for Motorola Satellite Communications, Inc. In that capacity, he provided a broad range of business development, strategic planning, policy analysis and regulatory functions for the IRIDIUM mobile satellite venture.
Professor Frieden has held senior policy making positions in international telecommunications at the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. In the private sector, he practiced law in Washington, D.C., and served as Assistant General Counsel at PTAT System, Inc. where he handled corporate, transactional and regulatory issues for the world’s first private undersea fiber optic cable company.
Professor Frieden holds a B.A., with distinction, from the University of Pennsylvania (1977) and a J.D. from the University of Virginia (1980).
Except where otherwise noted, all postings by Rob Frieden on CircleID are licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Incumbent carriers, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, have made countless "curtains for the Free World" assertions in the Network Neutrality debate. They claim that if the FCC reclassifies as common carriage aspects of Internet access, it will create "regulatory uncertainty" and "disincentive investment." Not one of the countless sponsored researchers funded by incumbents has provided a shred of empirical evidence to support these assertions. more»
It appears that the FCC will permit exceptions to the standard, plain vanilla best efforts routing standard for Internet traffic, such as the paid peering arrangement recently negotiated between Comcast and Netflix. In both academic and applied papers I have supported this option, with several major conditions... With no opposition that I have seen, companies like Akamai offer better than best efforts routing of "mission critical" traffic from content source to last mile, "retail" Internet Service Providers. more»
Soon after capitulating to Comcast's surcharge demand for improved treatment of its traffic, Netflix got better downstream delivery speeds. Apparently Comcast did not have to undertake a major bandwidth expansion program. Much to the immediate relief of Netflix, Comcast merely needed to allocate more ports for Netflix traffic. So with a reallocation of available bandwidth, Comcast solved Netflix's quality of service dilemma apparently without degrading service to anyone else, upstream or downstream. more»
Expect a charm offensive as Comcast and scores of sponsored researchers explain how acquiring Time Warner Cable will promote competition and enhance consumer welfare. You might not hear too much about two traditional concerns remedied by actual facilities-based competition: incentives to innovate and reduce prices. Comcast will frame its acquisition as necessary to achieve even greater scale to compete with other sources of video content and maybe to compete with the limited other sources of broadband access. more»
There is some good news about the decision by Verizon Wireless to offer shared monthly data plans. But there could be a lot more if the FCC applied its Carterfone policy. That policy gave consumers the power to decide what and how many devices to attach to a network connection. If Carterfone applied, consumers could use multiple devices to access a network subscription, albeit perhaps not at the same time. more»
Representatives of both AT&T and Verizon have stated that their companies will soon offer "toll free" broadband services. So far they have not provided much detail, but the prospect for customer and content provider surcharges should trigger concern, even outside the context of the network neutrality debate. First let's consider the frame the carrier reps use: "Toll Free." This is an old school "Bellhead" reference... more»
Before anyone claims victory for the consumer in AT&T's abandonment of its "swinging for the fence" gambit to buy T-Mobile's market share and spectrum, consider what did not make many headlines this week. Both AT&T and Verizon substantially shored up their spectrum stocks with major deals with Qualcomm and several cable companies respectively. Solid hits for both carriers: not homeruns, but very strategic singles and doubles. more»
One key reason for confusion about Network Neutrality lies in the many different and inconsistent frames used to shape the debate. The Tea Party has entered the fray by characterizing the matter primarily in terms of freedom. Republicans decry the "job killing" impact of the FCC's rules. Network Neutrality advocates appear ambivalent whether the FCC has capitulated to special interests, or shaped a pragmatic compromise. more»
Like many of you, I am keenly following the Comcast-Level 3 dispute and am trying to make sense of it all. The dispute confirms several universal principles about Internet traffic routing that have passed the test of time. ... Consumers pay Internet Service Providers ("ISPs") a monthly subscription with the expectation that the fee covers access to available content, i.e., the conduit. As the World Wide Web evolves and content options diversify to include full motion video, consumers simply expect their ISPs to make sure the download distribution pipes are sufficiently robust to handle high bandwidth requirements and commensurately large monthly download volume. more»
According to Level 3, a major long haul Internet Service Provider, Comcast has demanded a "recurring fee" when Level 3 hands off movie and other high capacity video traffic for delivery by Comcast to one of the cable company's subscribers. This demand warrants scrutiny, perhaps less in the context of Network Neutrality and more in terms of further diversification (unraveling) of the peering process. more»
Google and Verizon have developed a "Proposal" on Internet access which I am sure they expect to serve as a template, starting point and frame of reference going forward. In light of the FCC's judicial reversal in the Comcast case, the absence of substantive progress at the FCC and the unlikelihood of congressional action, two major stakeholder can and have taken the lead. It should come as no surprise that Verizon and Google have emphasized and begrudgingly compromised on their corporate interests. more»
News that Google and Verizon are negotiating "better than best efforts" Internet routing probably comes across as a betrayal of sorts to network neutrality advocates. Bear in mind that Information Service Providers ("ISPs") do not file public contracts known as tariffs and have the freedom to negotiate deals with individual clients. On the other hand ISPs, regardless of their FCC regulatory classification, cannot engage in unfair trade practices that achieve anticompetitive goals such a tilting the competitive playing field in favor of a corporate affiliate, or special third party. more»
For administrative convenience and not as required by law, the FCC likes to apply an either/or single regulatory classification to convergent operators. Having classified ISPs as information service providers, the Commission unsuccessfully sought to sanction Comcast's meddling with subscribers' peer-to-peer traffic. Now Chairman Genachowski wants to further narrow and nuance regulatory oversight without changing the organic information service classification. more»
The tremendous demand for, and profitability of mobile telephony supports legislative and regulatory efforts to refarm spectrum with an eye toward reallocating as much as possible for wireless telephony and data services. But there is a downside that no one seems to acknowledge. In light of past FCC practice and the behavior of incumbent wireless carriers I expect two anticompetitive outcomes to occur with the onset of any more spectrum. more»
Verizon Wireless' decision to allow their subscribers to access Skype raises a question about strategy. Is Verizon leveraging Skype access as an inducement for subscribers to upgrade to smartphones and commit to $30 a month data plans, has the company acknowledged that its future marketplace success lies in data and not voice services, and how will the company prevent a substantial reduction in plain old voice subscriptions priced above the $30 data plan benchmark? more»
Former Southwestern Bell CEO, now General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre famously accused Google of free-riding his network, despite the obvious truth that Google pays for traffic delivery to peering points and ISPs gladly enter into reciprocal peering agreements in lieu of cash transactions that would likely result in a near zero payment as roughly equivalent traffic balances out. Mr. Whitacre did raise a legitimate question whether there are free riders and I'm seeing one darling and one unexpected group flying below the radar. more»
My day job, which includes finishing a book, updating a broadband law treatise, and trying to engage undergraduate students in the challenges of telecommunication and Internet policy, prevents me from weighing in each time I see yet another outrageous claim on such issues as network neutrality, broadband market penetration, and the competitiveness of U.S. telecoms markets. But I have to make time for this one. more»
The FCC has posed a number of provocative questions to AT&T regarding the fact that iPhone subscribers cannot download and use the Google Voice application. AT&T should stifle every motivation to play cute or clever with the FCC. Apple adopted such a strategy when it suggested to the Library of Congress and others that it would be curtains for the free world if iPhone owners could hack, jailbreak, tether, and otherwise use their handsets without fear of violating the prohibition on circumventing copyright laws contained in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. more»
Google has undertaken a beta-test of a telephony platform that includes the opportunity to route incoming calls to multiple devices and telephone numbers as well as free domestic long distance service. Google offers a service that fits somewhere between computer-to-computer, Internet telephony and Voice over the Internet Protocol telephony with access to and from the public switched telephone network. These service categories present polar opposites for U.S. regulatory purposes... more»
Honesty is the best policy. At the risk of anthromorphizing a regulatory agency, at the very least the FCC has not told the complete truth, or put itself in a position not to know the truth. The FCC has contributed to debates about what constitutes credible facts and statistics, and what this data means. For example, soon-to-be former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin asserted as the gospel truth his factual conclusion that cable television operators collectively have a 70% market share... The FCC should acknowledge that it may not know all the facts. more»
Apple Computer has received high praise for the diversity of applications available for the iPhone. The company shows great willingness to accept third party software innovations. But Apple also solely decides whether to accept and make available any application. Rejected software vendors for the most part do not exist if they do not have shelf space at the Apple store. more»
Hawaii Telcom, the incumbent local exchange telephone company, has filed for bankruptcy protection. Press accounts attribute this outcome to increased competition, the company's struggle to finance capital spending while making debt payments, a significant downturn in the economy, as well as the difficulties in the transition following the leveraged buyout of the company from Verizon Communications Inc. I have a few other bogus and credible explanations that may offer greater insights. more»
Those wacky editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal just cannot seem to get the facts straight about network neutrality and what the FCC has done or can do on this matter. In the July 30, 2008 edition (Review and Outlook A14), the Journal vilifies FCC Chairman Kevin Martin for starting along the slippery slope of regulating Internet content. The Journal writers just seem to love hyperbole, and are not beyond ignoring the facts when they do not support a party line. Here are a few examples from the editorial... more»
While attending the International Telecommunications Society's 17th bi-annual conference I attended yet another network neutrality session. Economists predominated at this conference and their collective read on network neutrality emphasizes the need for ISPs to "extract value" from content providers primarily by converting zero cost peering with ISPs into specific payments from individual content sources. I have no problem with offers of non-neutral, "better than best efforts" routing options to content providers who voluntarily opt in, particularly if the offer is made transparently and anyone can opt in. What troubles me is the impact of opt-in on content providers that opt out... more»
The Wall Street Journal today reported that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants to reject a Petition for Declaratory Ruling filed by Skype that would establish a wireless Carterfone policy, i.e., that wireless carriers must allow subscribers to use any compatible handset to access any application, content or software. Chairman Martin has confidence that the marketplace solutions obviate any necessary FCC intervention. Such optimism must derive in part from the apparently newfound willingness of one major wireless carrier, Verizon, to support aspects of open access. Perhaps Chairman Martin has confidence in the marketplace based on the magnanimous offer of most wireless carriers to pro-rate their early termination penalties by $5 a month. But here's the rub... more»
This week two major transoceanic cables experienced outages that may last several days. The outages provide a reminder that several Internet bottlenecks exist where these cables make landfall. When one thinks of bottlenecks in telecommunications the first and last mile come to mind. Yet equally vulnerable are the last few 1000 feet of submarine cable links. more»
An assignment in a Media and Democracy course I teach at Penn State invites students to select a telecommunications advocacy web site for analysis. I want my students to decode the message and attempt to identify whether a bias exists and who financially supports the site. The exercise typically fails miserably... Most students cannot infer that a site that advertises books by Ann Coulter trends to the right and one that talks about social justice trends to the left. more»
Comcast's furtive and undisclosed traffic manipulation reminds me of a curious, red herring asserted by some incumbent carriers and their sponsored researchers: that without complete freedom to vertically and horizontally integrate the carriers would lose synergies, efficiencies and be relegated to operating "dumb pipes."... Constructing and operating the pipes instead of creating the stuff that traverses them gets a bad rap. It may not be sexy, but it probably has less risk. But of course with less risk comes less reward, and suddenly no one in the telecommunications business is content with that. So incumbent carriers assert that convergence and competitive necessity requires them to add "value" to the pipes. more»
In a counter-intuitive move for a Republican free marketeer, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has sought to impose substantial additional regulations on cable television. Chairman Martin ostensibly can retain his credentials by claiming that a 1984 law requires the FCC to act when cable television systems serve 70% or more of the U.S. population and 70% who can subscribe do so. more»