O'Rielly: Ad Platforms Under Assault at FCC

Cites Title II, Speed Reclassification in Speech to Advertisers

Ad platforms -- wired, wireless, OTT -- are in the crosshairs at the Federal Communications Commission, commissioner Michael O'Rielly said in a speech meant to warn the populators of those platforms at an Association of National Advertisers (ANA) meeting in Washington.

O'Rielly said while it was not his role to defend ad practices, he suggested it was not the FCC's role to undermine their platforms.

"From wireless and wireline Internet service providers to over-the-top video providers to traditional outlets and everywhere else, almost every media platform your companies use to advertise to consumers has come under assault recently at the commission," he said.

That's because the FCC is trying to expand its authority into uncharted territory, he said. For O'Rielly, that includes reclassifying broadband access as a Title II telecommunications service (others argue it is not a reclassification), and applying the bulk of its net-neutrality rules to wired broadband for the first time. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said that territory was charted by the decision to classify mobile voice under some, but not all, Title II regs.

O'Rielly also pointed to the FCC's reclassification of high-speed broadband minimums to 25 Mbps downstream. The change, which O'Rielly did not support, was justified in part by ISP ads that encouraged customers to upgrade to higher speeds. He said the FCC also used ISP ads about speed and capacity to help rationalize the Title II switch.

He suggested the FCC had mistaken those ads for policy positions.

"It’s reasonable for advertisers to try to convince consumers that they need something better or different than what they already have -- that’s your business," O'Rielly said. "But I think we can agree that selling a product is a very different objective than setting technical benchmarks that have significant legal and regulatory consequences under the FCC majority’s reading of the statute or imposing new burdensome rules on broadband providers."

O'Rielly said one of the most important results of the Title II decision for advertisers is the FCC's "desire" to "edge into Internet privacy and security" issues.

"I could foresee the FCC trying to police how information is collected, used, shared and stored, as well as disclosures to consumers about those practices," he said.

O'Rielly said he was not sure how the FCC's proposal to reclassify some over-the-top providers as MVPDS would go, but suggested it could be a killer-app chilller.

"It is a safe bet that there will be significant unintended consequences on an emerging industry still trying to define itself, as it moves forward," he said.