January 25, 2018 9:12 AM

The Internet Giants' Dominance Goes Beyond Antitrust

Recent media coverage of Alphabet, Amazon, or Facebook's dominance has often raised the notion that antitrust laws might be the best tool to counter it.  See, e.g., this excellent survey article by David Dayen for American Prospect. Because these giants do, indeed, have concentrated economic power, a certain reflexive tendency exists to turn to the antitrust laws. After all, these laws are supposed to be the antidote to market power, right?

Violations of the antitrust laws, however, are not the only explanation for market dominance. In his book, "Move Fast and Break Things," Jonathan Taplin explains, with extraordinary clarity, that the internet giants' economic power is the direct result of legal advantages bestowed upon them by the United States government.  Let's look at some of the profound government-granted advantages these firms hold, before reaching a conclusion that a competitive market--where consumers pick the winners--is even possible.  

Tax Free--An Offer You Can't Refuse

In the 1980's, mafia-affiliated gasoline distributors were stunningly successful new entrants into the wholesale gasoline market in New York and New Jersey. Their secret?  Undercut the competition by not paying taxes that every legitimate gasoline distributor remits to federal and state authorities

One ambitious individual, working on Wall Street at the time, was clearly paying attention. When Jeff Bezos quit his Wall Street job to start Amazon.com in 1994, Bezos already had the winning formula, courtesy of Colombo crime family caporegime Michael Franzese; except that in the "virtual" world where Bezos was headed, there were no pesky tax collectors--and he aimed to keep it that way.

Amazon aggressively--and largely successfully--fought the states on the issue of sales taxes for years. About 5 years ago, Amazon noticed that it wasn't exactly a sympathetic character in this fight, and handed over lobbying against sales taxes to eBay and Overstock.com.  On April 1, 2017, Amazon finally "threw in the towel," and began collecting sales tax on its sales (but not sales made through individual vendors through "Amazon Marketplace"). 

Amazon's Prime Rates

Amazon Prime membership--$100 annually (or monthly $12.99)--gives you free 2 day shipping on most items, as well as streaming videos and music; it's a great deal for what you're paying. The bad news is that you're paying more than you think for that luxury--whether you're an Amazon customer or not.

The U.S. Postal Service carries a lot of Amazon deliveries and they give their biggest customer a great deal.  For you, the Postal Service's monopoly customer, the deal isn't so great.  In fact, during the recent holiday season, the public--which pays the USPS' perennial deficits--had a difficult time getting its packages delivered, even at much higher prices than Amazon pays.

While some argue that it's not entirely fair to blame Amazon for the Postal System's woes, these folks may be missing the forest for the trees. Regardless of whether Amazon could, or should, be paying more for shipping, there can be no doubt that the Postal Service favors the largest online retailer at the expense of every other competitor.

The HQ Shakedown

Last year Amazon announced it was considering a second headquarters location.  The prize for any jurisdiction lucky enough to win the bidding: 40,000-50,000 high-paying jobs and Amazon's promise of a $5 billion investment. As a result, cities are in a "frenzy" to attract Amazon.  

According to the Wall Street Journal, the D.C. area ranks highly among the "finalists."  Last week, Maryland's Governor offered Amazon $5 billion in state services/tax relief--around $125,000 per job--just to improve the state's chances. Other states have offered even more; it's a risky bet for states, but not for Amazon.

Section 230--A License to Steal

We've previously discussed Google's use/abuse of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) --and how the prospect of narrowing this exemption solely to protect the weakest members from the most ruthless websites--led Google on a scorched-earth defense of internet sex traffickers.  The internet giants' opposition to even modest amendments to Section 230's unlimited liability shows these firms' dependence on rent-seeking.  In other words, internet platforms succeed through the relative efficiency with which they are able to appropriate and monetize the value of content/intellectual property created by others.  

Counterfeiting

Today, a genuine Gucci belt from Neiman-Marcus sells for approximately $400-450.  Expensive, sure, but you know it's real.

On Amazon, if you search "men's Gucci belt," you'll see that all the choices look real, and the prices are frequently lower--though not that much lower--than the Neiman-Marcus prices. However, if you look carefully, you can see there are three different sellers, including one named "gúCCí."  If you guess wrong, and unintentionally buy a fake, Amazon might refund your money.  However, as a racked.com article recently explained, Amazon is nowhere to be seen when you will have to face any legal consequences that may result from your order being seized by U.S.Customs

Piracy

We've avoided talking too much about Google and Facebook specifically in this post--because we've covered them extensively in others (e.g., here and here)--recall that a substantial portion of their ad revenue comes from placing ads on the intellectual property of others.  For example, this chart (from Digital Music News) shows that while YouTube is responsible for the most music streams, it also pays the least to rights-holders.

Music streams_royalties.png

 There are a couple of reasons for this. First, artists believe that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "notice and takedown" provision grants the websites a relatively risk-free way to profit from piracy.  Second, even when Google and Amazon need advance licenses to use music, music rights attorney Chris Castle observed that, in April of 2016 they began "taking advantage of two little known and previously little used sections of Section 115 of the 1976 Copyright Act that . . . limit when statutory mechanical royalties are payable."  By exploiting these loopholes, Castle explains, the largest digital music users are able to avoid paying royalties, and insulate themselves from infringement liability, for older (pre-1978), and very new, music

Likewise, Facebook--the biggest single source of "news" for almost half of America (according to a recent Pew study)--has steadily usurped the ad revenue of those who create the content. News organizations have seen their ad revenue plummet from $50 billion in 2006 to less than $20 billion in 2016. Pew p. 28.

If you ever doubt whether Google and Facebook could stop piracy, consider this exercise: type "watch child porn online" into Google. This search is for illegal, repugnant, material--and Google's search results practically scream, "don't do it; you'll go to jail!"   

watch_child_pornography_search3.jpg

Now, type in "watch [any movie/TV show] for free." In response to this search--which is just as illegal as the first--the very first link Google returns is to "putlockers" (a variant name of pirate site putlocker).

watch_whos_the_boss4.jpg
The Internet Isn't for Antitrust

Antitrust laws protect competition, because competition produces benefits for consumers.  Among these benefits, competition eliminates the waste of economic "rents" implicit in artificially high prices.  The internet, on the other hand, evolved under the notion that--if allowed to flourish without all the "red tape" that constrains every other business in the country--competition on the web would flourish naturally. 

As it turned out, web-based businesses did exactly what the Colombo crime family--or anyone else operating outside the law--would do: take as many rents as possible. For this reason, antitrust and internet exceptionalism are two policies that could not be more in conflict with one another.  As long as the internet remains "special," cries for increased antitrust enforcement make about as much sense as tougher speeding tickets, but no prohibition on drunk driving.

January 24, 2018 10:59 AM

AT&T's Call for a Consumers' Internet Bill of Rights

Statement of Jonathan Lee, regarding AT&T's open letter (published earlier today) calling for a consumer "Internet Bill of Rights:"    

AT&T rightly argues that consumers should have the right to certain reasonable expectations with respect to their entire internet experience, rather than the small portion controlled by ISPs which has been subject to frequently changing FCC rules and policies.  Consumers must have the right to the same expectations of transparency, non-discrimination, ability to access legal content, and privacy/data security--regardless of device or provider used to access the internet, websites visited, or applications used.  If all internet companies were required to give consumers the same minimum protections across all services, websites, applications, and on all connected devices, the long-awaited "internet of things" would develop faster and more completely, because consumers could more confidently embrace these innovations without reservation.  It is critical now for Members of Congress to work together in a bipartisan manner to put American internet consumers first.

November 27, 2017 10:05 AM

Assumptions On Assumptions: The DoJ's Fatally Weak AT&T/TWX Complaint

Good things are even better when they keep coming. When a friend of mine would say, "let me tell you something...before I tell you something else," you knew you'd be laughing a lot. Likewise, who doesn't love Big Sean's "Blessings" (explicit lyrics) ("blessings on blessings on blessings...lessons on lessons on lessons")?  But, unlike Ferg's hilarious commentary, and Big Sean's blessings, some things-- assumptions--only get worse when piled on top of one another.

Last week, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("DoJ" or "the Government") filed a Complaint seeking to enjoin AT&T from acquiring Time Warner Entertainment ("TWX").  The DoJ argues that, post-merger, the combined firm will be able to unilaterally raise prices for rival multichannel TV distributors (like cable companies, phone companies, Dish, or over-the-top ("OTT") video providers) and/or retail consumers.  See, Complaint paras. 5-10. The problem with the Government's theory, though, is that even they know that it's a logical house of cards, with a foundation unsupported by any market evidence.    

Relevant Markets

The DoJ notes three kinds of video distributors: 1) traditional multi-channel video programming distributors ("MVPDs"), like cable, legacy phone, and satellite providers; 2) virtual MVPDs ("VMVPDs"), which are similar to MVPDs, but offered over the internet, and available nationally; and 3) subscription video on demand services ("SVODs"), like Amazon Prime and Netflix, who offer video on demand programming nationally, but do not offer live programming like news and sports. Complaint, paras 15-19.  

Based on these definitions, the Government asserts that  two relevant product markets exist: 1) the "All Video Distribution" market, which comprises all types of video distributors (MVPD, virtual MVPD, and SVOD), and 2) the "Multichannel Video Distribution" market, which includes MVPDs and virtual MVPDs (hereinafter, "MVPDs").  The relevant geographic markets, the DoJ argues, are local Designated Market Areas, which are defined by choices of supplier available to consumers (the wireline service providers of Multichannel Video Distribution vary according to their individual network coverage areas).  Complaint, paras 27-30.  

Competitive Effects

The DoJ contends that the merger will harm competition/raise prices in both the All Video Distribution and Multichannel Video Distribution markets throughout the country because it would give the post-merger firm the ability to unilaterally raise the price of wholesale programming (from Turner Broadcasting & HBO) to rival MVPDs.  The enhanced ability to raise prices to rivals is the DoJ's primary argument.

But, almost like the perfunctory "and stuff" ending that teenagers tack on to woefully incomplete answers, the DoJ also claims that the merger will "give the merged company the ability to impede and slow innovation by hindering emerging online competitors and would increase the likelihood of oligopolistic coordination." Complaint, paras. 31-41, generally; quote from Subsection V.B.  I quote the Complaint directly so that readers can see that this alleged harm is simply too general to merit analysis. The Government's main point, though, is not a huge improvement.

Assumptions Everywhere

Putting aside the Government's lack of factual support for its theory, let's look at all the assumptions (unsupported in the Complaint) that we have to accept in order for the Government's argument--that the post-merger firm can profitably raise prices (both for rivals and its retail customers) for TWX programming--to actually make sense.

Assumption: the premerger TWX was not already extracting the highest price that each distributor was willing to pay, i.e., it could have gotten higher prices if it pushed firms into "blackout."

Assumption on assumption *2: Retail MVPD customers are--per subscriber--more profitable than programming (which is also sold on a "per subscriber" basis).
 
Assumption * 3:. "Blackout" situations are always worse for the MVPD distributor than the programmer (i.e., the distributor always loses more customers/revenue from not carrying a channel at a higher price than the programmer forgoes from losing carriage). But see, below..

Assumption * 4: The post-merger TWX, as the owner of its own competitive MVPD, will be even more resistant to the threat of any given rival MVPD not carrying its content, because if some of the rival MVPDs customers defect to other MVPDs as a result of a blackout, at least some of those customers will become AT&T retail MVPD customers.

Assumption * 5: The acquisition of some of the retail customers that will leave an MVPD in response to a TWX programming blackout is at least as valuable as that MVPD was as a program distributor.

Assumption * 6: Post-merger, an MVPD with TWX programming also can profitably charge its own retail customers higher prices.

The Government Knows It's Wrong

Rather than go through every specious block/mistaken factual assumption in the DoJ's Jenga tower of dysfunctional logic, let's just analyze one--Assumption * 3.  This "assumption" (essentially, that the programmer will always get its price, no matter how uneconomic) seems to be something the Government actually believes is required by the antitrust laws; though principles of basic economics, and actual market conditions, say otherwise.  You see, a year ago (and only weeks after this merger was announced), the Government filed suit against AT&T and DirecTV, blaming AT&T's DirecTV unit for every other MVPD's refusal to carry the L.A. Dodgers for (at the time) the past 3 baseball seasons!

The Government filed its case--charging only DirecTV of wrongdoing--knowing full well that AT&T/DirecTV would have to settle prior to closing its merger (which it did in March of this year).  DirecTV's "crime," according to the DoJ, was publicly stating its refusal to accede to Time Warner Cable's (no affiliation w/TWX, and since then acquired by Charter Communications) "extravagant" demands of $5/subscriber simply to carry L.A. Dodgers baseball games, this particular "blackout" continues, and has lasted well over 4 seasons with MVPDs losing relatively few subscribers.

Notably, the Government did not accuse DirecTV, or any other MVPD, of participating in an illegal agreement to "boycott" TWC's regional sports network ("RSN").  Moreover, although AT&T settled the DoJ Complaint in March, Charter Communications (the successor to TWC) is still the only MVPD carrying the Dodgers' regular season games.  Thus, ironically, the DoJ, better than anyone, knows full well that the scheme it outlined in its Complaint has no basis in reality--as even the most "must have" sports content cannot be forced on competitors by a single vertically-integrated competitor (lCharter, which owns the programming (L.A. SportsNet) and serves about half of the L.A. area retail market).

Obviously

Likewise, the aggregate retail market conditions also clearly refute DoJ's assumption that price increases can be easily and profitably passed on to retail customers.  So far, as of the 3rd quarter, in 2017 the number of households, nationwide, subscribing to a MVPD service is down over 11% over the past 3 years. Leichtman Research Note, 3Q 2017 at pp. 2-3 (79% of American households subscribe to a pay TV package--down from 88% in 2014; a decline of over 11% in 3 years).  Moreover, satellite (like DirecTV) and telephone (AT&T's legacy U-Verse) MVPDs are losing customers at a much greater rate than cable. Id. at 6 (in Q3 2017 AT&T lost almost twice as many MVPD customers as all cable providers combined). Thus, any price increase--especially by a satellite or legacy telephone MVPD--would only accelerate customer loses!

The DoJ knows that the foundation of its case--assumptions on assumptions--is supported by nothing but mere speculation and out of context "hot docs." Soon enough, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon will know as well that the market realities in this case simply cannot support the Government's assumptions. 
 
November 13, 2017 11:22 AM

The Strange Case of the Inverted Vertical Merger

After a year of not really hearing anything about AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Entertainment ("TWX"), we learned last week that the deal could be in serious jeopardy from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("DoJ" or "Department").  Many of the stories earlier in the week, citing "DoJ sources," suggested that the Department wanted AT&T to sell CNN, in order to gain approval.  In an extensive interview at the New York Times DealBook Conference, AT&T's Chairman, Randall Stephenson put the rumor to rest that CNN was a divestiture the DoJ was seeking, or that AT&T had offered. (See video of the full interview).  
 
Stephenson also noted his "surprise" that the Department would have concerns serious enough to litigate; noting that a vertical merger had not been successfully challenged in court in over 40 years, and that Comcast's acquisition of NBCU had presented much more difficult content problems than AT&T's proposed TWX acquisition.  Stephenson is understandably surprised, because he's absolutely correct on the law.  Nonetheless, the DoJ must have some concern about the deal, so what's going on here?
 
What an Anticompetitive Vertical Merger Looks Like
 
The words "vertical" and "horizontal" are used in antitrust to refer to firms' positions in the supply chain, from creating a product through to its delivery to consumers.  Firms at the same position in the supply chain are, of course, direct competitors, and a merger between them would be called a "horizontal" merger. On the other hand, the merger of a bakery with a grocery store would be an example of a vertical merger--the bakery produces products that are distributed to the public through grocery stores.
 
A vertical merger will rarely present an antitrust problem, unless one or both of the two merging partners has "market power." For example, if the distribution of a service is a monopoly (think local telecommunications services prior to the late 1990's) and a provider of a "competitive" service using this distribution network (like a long distance voice company) wanted to acquire the local telephone exchange, the antitrust agencies would likely be concerned that the acquiring firm may be able to foreclose other long distance companies from being able to continue to access the local distribution network to sell their services to end users, resulting in higher prices to consumers of long distance service.
 
AT&T and TWX

AT&T provides consumer fixed line voice, internet, and multi-channel television service throughout the service territories of its former incumbent local exchange providers. AT&T also provides nationwide mobile voice and internet service through AT&T Wireless, and nationwide multi-channel television service through its satellite (DirecTV) and streaming (DirecTV Now) services. All of the consumer services provided by AT&T are "competitive" services, available from multiple providers.
 
TWX is a worldwide entertainment conglomerate.  Its 3 major divisions are HBO (premium television/streaming entertainment), Turner Broadcasting (includes a number of popular cable channels, including CNN, TBS, and TNT), and Warner Bros. (primarily film and television production/distribution).  The Turner Broadcasting division, it should be noted, owns the rights to broadcast a number of basketball (NBA and NCAA Tournament) and MLB games, as well as assorted sports that no one watches, like golf and women's Irish curling [probably].
 
Nominal Overlap: While generally AT&T distributes the programming of others, it does own some regional sports networks under the "AT&T SportsNet" name. Although AT&T owns the exclusive rights to distribute the games of certain local teams (NBA/NHL/MLB/some NCAA) in Houston, Pittsburgh, Portland, OR, Seattle, and Utah, these regional sports properties do not "compete" with the games that Turner Broadcasting distributes nationally.
 
What Is Going On?
 
Adding to the confusion surrounding the Department's concerns, the reactions from even well-informed commenters have diverged greatly. Because this merger presents nothing exceptional from an antitrust perspective, some, like economist Hal Singer, have concluded that the only reason the DoJ is holding up the deal is to further prosecute President Trump's ongoing personal feud with CNN (owned by TWX).  However, others, like Harold Feld, argue that the DoJ is on the right track and that only large scale divestitures (like all of Turner Broadcasting, or DirecTV) could remedy the competitive problems with this merger.  
 
While Feld makes a compelling case to question the "spite" theory, and he offers the DoJ an ostensible case theory, it's not a convincing argument; as it ignores current market conditions, and relies on a lot of the same, now obsolete, market "assumptions" that the 1992 Cable Act is based on. Of course, this should come as no surprise, since Public Knowledge's current president--Gene Kimmelman--was one of the principle forces behind the Cable Act (on the side of broadcasters).  See, e.g., this NY Times article from 1992.  Note that the 1992 Cable Act continues to richly reward the broadcasters that these ("natural monopoly") arguments favored.  Consumer Reports notes that cable company "price hikes are mainly driven by the rising costs they face for carrying both traditional broadcast networks, such as CBS and Fox, and regional sports channels."
 
The Blind Men and the Elephant
 
Sometimes, as the old fable illustrates, you can't get an accurate picture by focusing on the smallest possible market that could (conceivably) be defined; and this is what I think is going on here.  In Feld's analysis, the post-merger firm is either a distribution colossus (why else would it need to divest DirecTV?), or a "must have" programming hoarder who may well put competitive video distributors (like Comcast?) out of business.  However, to have this opinion one has to explicitly disregard AT&T's stated reason for the deal--to build an advertising platform of the scale to offer competition to the Google/Facebook duopoly on mobile and desktop screens.
 
Public Knowledge, and the other opponents of AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV, ignored the company's stated purpose for that deal--that AT&T needed scale to be a more effective video distribution competitor. Instead, opponents preferred to focus only on the limited number of TV markets that would "lose" a multichannel competitor (those in which AT&T already provided U-verse TV).
 
Three years later, where are we?  Well, customers are continuing to "cut the cord" of traditional pay TV services, like the service offered over AT&T's U-verse.  However, by creating an entirely new video product--DirecTV Now--AT&T has, in less than a year, obtained 800,000 additional customers (a number that represents about 15% of AT&T's entire base of U-Verse TV customers at the time of its DirecTV merger announcement) and 60% of these customers are entirely new customers to AT&T

Said differently, in less than a year of marketing DirecTV Now, AT&T acquired 15% of the customers that took U-Verse TV 10 years to acquire. Rather than losing a choice in a few markets, consumers nationwide gained a choice and acted on it. Thus, consistent with its stated reasoning for acquiring DirecTV, the acquisition allowed it to stimulate output of multichannel video services. Opponents failed to realize the implications of AT&T's DirecTV purchase, in which a new nationwide competitor was created to challenge not only the traditional DirecTV satellite & U-Verse TV services, but also cable companies, other OTT providers, and may have even spurred the entry into the market of newer "large screen" players like Google, Hulu, others.
 
The Opportunity and the Danger
 
The AT&T/TWX merger, as noted by Mark Cuban at a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing almost a year ago, gives AT&T a chance--and not a very good one, at that (according to Cuban)--to compete against the dominant new media ad giants.  To do this successfully, AT&T will have to, again, expand output of the firm it is acquiring; there simply are not any credible hypotheticals where AT&T "wins" anything by restricting TWX output. 
 
But, if the Department insists on defining the elephant as a snake, based on the shape of its trunk, there is a danger that it leaves existing markets worse off than when it found them.  If, for some crazy reason, AT&T actually agreed to sell off Turner Broadcasting, the only buyer would be another media conglomerate--further concentrating an already highly concentrated market (which is trending toward even greater concentration with Fox-Disney merger rumors) .  Similarly, if AT&T were required to sell off DirecTV, its entire ability to market to a nationwide base of potential video customers would be eliminated--practically guaranteeing that its only profitable strategy would be to restrict output to local market multichannel competitors!
 
October 31, 2017 11:58 AM

Note: Net Neutrality Zombie Apocalypse Has Not Hit Portugal

A few months ago, we debunked the "Internet Will Be Like Cable" myth that net neutrality "activists" (Google/FB funded 3d parties) have loved to spread since the beginning.  Yet, today being Halloween, the net neutrality crowd has been flooding Twitter with a "spooky" modern day fake news version of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast.  This time, though, instead of an alien landing, the "news" is that the "internet is already like cable...in Portugal!"


To support their claim they reference a Quartz Media article (though there is another on PC Gamer).  Digging deeper, however, the only citation in either that contains anything directly related to Portugal is a link to a tech website article (in Portuguese) from July.

The Portuguese article questions if Vodafone (another mobile telecom/ISP competing in Portugal) will offer "SmartNet" mobile packages like those launched by mobile operator MEO (the mobile unit of Portugal Telecom now owned by Altice) this past April.  Far from supporting the scare stories, this article notes that the new packages offered by MEO are a further attempt to tailor offerings to best meet consumer needs--and to "bet on" demand that has, so far, gone unmet and thereby reap the rewards.

Having apparently not read the source material, net neutrality advocates still jump to their usual conclusions that: 1) this is the only way consumers in Portugal can buy internet service, and that 2) it only "hurts" applications providers, like Google/Facebook.  In other words, they revert to the original "internet will be like cable" nightmare fantasy.

Only "Nightmare" Is Portuguese Consumers Getting Better Service through Competition

The actual facts reveal that mobile operators appear to be competing to give consumers more, not less, options.  And, of course, a quick perusal of the actual service offerings available to consumers confirms that this is exactly what is happening in Portugal.  Three facilities-based providers currently operate in Portugal (a country of 10 million people): MEO (a play on "meu" or "mine"), Vodafone, and NOS (a play on "nós" or "us/we"). 

MEO offers 4 basic mobile plans with some amount of "unlimited" calling, SMS, and/or data use, ranging from the cheapest (about $13/month) to the most expensive ($57/month).  The cheapest plan (with voice/SMS) comes with 500mbs of mobile internet service and the most expensive plan offers 30gbs--with which the consumer can use to access the whole internet.  But, if a customer only wants mobile internet service, she has the option to purchase 10gbs of service (to the "whole" internet) for about $18.00/month (offer here).    

MEO also offers consumers--with any mobile internet plan--the ability to get "SmartNet" packages with an additional 10gbs of the applications they use most (e.g., video or social networks) for an additional €4.99 ($5.80)/month. In other words, the "tiered" graphic that "scary news" articles are using to show the "cable" apocalypse was finally upon us, is in fact merely a bunch of mini "binging" packages (similar to T-Mobile's popular "binge on" promotion). 

What about the other providers?  Although none of the other operators offers anything like the "SmartNet" mini-binging tiers, if a customer only wants mobile Internet service (& no calling/SMS), NOS offers an unlimited data package for €15/month ($17.40), with a 12 month contract (€25 ($29) w/no contract).  Likewise, Vodafone offers mobile internet packages of 5GB/10GB/30GB for €10/12.50/15/month (w/12 month contract). 

The obvious conclusion is that--without net neutrality--Portuguese consumers have plenty of options for plenty of bandwidth (at very attractive price points) with which to access the "whole" Internet.  The inclusion of limited "binging" bundles of applications is hardly the scary nightmare being peddled by net neutrality activists.  Instead, it's a rather natural competitive response to attract consumer interest, which we should expect more of, in a market not weighed down by unnecessary regulation.

The Final Irony

The scary fake news stories circulating about MEO's "SmartNet" packages would have you believe that offers like these are only possible without net neutrality rules--like the ones adopted by the Wheeler FCC in 2015.   However, had the net neutrality advocates (again) checked the source material, they would see that the FCC's current definition of broadband internet access service ("BIAS") does not prohibit carriers from offering curated internet service packages.  

If this story makes your Halloween less fun because it's less scary, I apologize. However, I do wish all of you a happy and safe Halloween...boo!