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Blog Posts by Andrew Jay Schwartzman

The Supreme Court Establishes A First Amendment Framework For Social Media

This week’s Supreme Court opinion is likely to serve as an important guidepost as courts assess the First Amendment implications of efforts to restrict access to the Internet.

Beware: The UHF Discount Is Rising From The Dead

The ultra high frequency (UHF) Discount is the zombie of media policy, likely to rise from the dead this week at the Federal Communications Commission’s April 20, 2017 meeting. The likely restoration of the UHF Discount raises interesting legal issues, since no one disputes that there the policy rationale for its adoption has long since disappeared. Those arguments will play out at the Federal Communications Commission and, perhaps, in the courts, but this post is about the colorful history of the UHF Discount and why restoring it would likely lead to vastly increased concentration of control of TV stations in this country.

Why Radical Deregulation Is Happening So Fast At The FCC

President Donald Trump has moved quickly to use Executive Orders and other plenary powers to deliver on some of his major campaign promises on issues such as immigration, the Dakota Access pipeline and appointment of a conservative Supreme Court Justice. For the most part, however, his promised deregulatory assault on what his chief strategist Steven Bannon calls the “Administrative State” has not advanced as quickly. Hundreds of top level positions at Executive Branch agencies remain vacant, and the process of rescinding regulatory policies can be cumbersome and time consuming. There is at least one important exception - media and telecommunications regulation at the Federal Communications Commission.

Broadband Over Power Lines -- We Really Mean It This Time

When telecom engineers are shooting the breeze, they often use the phrase "Project Angel" as a punchline. For almost 20 years, AT&T (and its predecessor company, also called AT&T) periodically announced that it was going to use revolutionary and exotic technologies to deliver high-speed wireless service that could replace (at first) copper phone lines and, later, to deliver ultra-fast broadband service. Despite big press announcements (such as these in 1997, 2000 and 2002), Project Angel never happened. At least until now.

Stingray 101: How Law Enforcement Agencies And, Perhaps, Anyone Else, Can And Do Intercept Cell Phone Calls

Cell-site simulators, often referred to as “Stingrays,” pose important legal and policy issues for a democratic society, especially in light of evidence that these devices have disproportionately been used to target communities of color.

Globalstar's Christmas Present

On December 22, the Federal Communications Commission gave a satellite operator named Globalstar a Christmas present of sorts, along with a lump of coal. The events leading up to this action present a case study that offers insights into the physical, economic, legal, and political forces that shape telecommunications policy.

The Trump FCC’s Toolkit For Deregulating Media and Telecommunications

Although there are many articles and blog posts discussing likely policy changes in the media and telecommunications space, it is far too early to know exactly when and what will happen at the Federal Communications Commission under the forthcoming Trump Administration. However, it is not too soon to identify the legal mechanisms available to Congress and the FCC to unwind many of the Obama era accomplishments. In light of the Democrats’ loss of the White House and failure to take control of the Senate, public interest advocates will have a very hard time protecting these and earlier regulatory requirements given the breadth of the power conferred by these statutes. From the moment he took office in late 2013, outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler operated from the premise that his tenure might not extend beyond January 2017. Even though he undertook an ambitious agenda as soon as he arrived, a number of his major initiatives were not completed until the latter part of 2016. As a practical matter, it is reasonably easy for Congressional Republicans and the incoming Republican majority at the FCC to derail at least some of these recently adopted regulations. Here’s how.

The Most Important Part of the Telecommunications Business You Probably Don't Know About

A hallmark of Tom Wheeler’s tenure as Federal Communications Commission Chairman has been his willingness to take on difficult challenges and push them to completion. Surely one of the most difficult of these undertakings has been to reform “special access,” which the Wheeler FCC has wisely, and more appropriately, renamed “Business Data Services." Reform advocates argue that BDS prices are grossly excessive and unjustly enrich the former AT&T local phone companies. They maintain that this has stifled competition and dissuaded new entrants into the market. Since these overcharges are passed through to all consumers, the overcharges have arguably increased the prices that we pay for all manner of services seemingly unrelated to telecommunications. If they are right, the changes under consideration should generate more competition and lower prices.

Can We Get Better Wi-Fi Without Jeopardizing Traffic Safety?

It might not be surprising that major industries would mount a big fight over how to deploy a swathe of currently unused spectrum. However, a dispute over a chunk of spectrum located in the 5.9 gigahertz (GHz) band also pits different parts of the federal government against each other and, even in Washington’s ever-more partisan environment, has Republicans and Democrats on both sides. As such, the dispute offers some important insights into the political gamesmanship surrounding spectrum allocation.

Network Neutrality: Now What?

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s network neutrality rules. So what does that mean, and what will happen now?

Author's Bio

Andrew Jay Schwartzman is the Benton Senior Counselor at the Public Interest Communications Law Project at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation (IPR). Schwartzman, who led the Media Access Project for 34 years, is recognized by many as the “dean” of public interest communications attorneys. MAP was a nonprofit public interest telecommunications law firm that represented the public in promoting the First Amendment. Schwartzman is a leader in promoting civil rights and civil liberties in media and telecommunications. For nearly four decades, he has gained extraordinary knowledge about the affected industries and this has afforded him the opportunity to forge close ties with stakeholders. Because of his seniority and litigation successes, he is widely regarded as a leader in the communications bar, and thus has unique access to high-level decision makers. He is a member of the Federal Communications Commission’s Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age.