Net Neutrality Opponents Ignore History In Pretending FCC's Decision Breaks Some Made Up Rules

from the partisan-patty-cake dept

Desperate to stop the FCC’s passage of meaningful Title II-based net neutrality rules later this month, ISPs and their loyal friends in Congress have taken a multi-pronged approach. First, ISPs encouraged Senator John Thune and Representative Fred Upton to table an incredibly feeble set of net neutrality rules that are actually worse than the ones Verizon sued to overturn back in 2010. The plan is to offer a particularly-awful set of rules, compromise a tiny bit, then offer up the final, still-historically-pathetic rules as a “bipartisan” solution to net neutrality that makes Title II unnecessary. The effort is (despite what some in the tech press believe and for lack of a more technical term) garbage and is going nowhere.

The second wing of the attack on Title II rules appears to be the launching of simultaneous House and Senate investigations into whether the White House “improperly” pressured FCC boss Tom Wheeler into adopting Title II rules. Because the President voiced support for Title II rules back in November, and FCC boss Tom Wheeler declared he would be supporting Title II rules last week, neutrality opponents insist there’s a cabal of the highest order afoot. As such, they’re demanding records of all correspondence between the White House and the FCC because they’re so very concerned about transparency and the fact that the FCC potentially violated rules dictating it be an independent agency:

“Republicans are citing a succession of events, including Obama?s statement, that they say shows the White House may have thwarted the FCC?s regular process. The letter asks for information about communications between the FCC and the executive branch relating to the proposal, which would ban Internet-service providers from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up websites in exchange for payment

“Since the FCC is an independent agency that derives its authority from Congress and not the White House, it is highly concerning that the White House would seek to take on this level of involvement in the regulatory process of the FCC, or attempt to supplant completely the agency?s decision-making apparatus,” Johnson wrote in the letter, which demands documents by Feb. 23.”

It’s important to note that however shifty the White House can be on a litany of issues, it didn’t do anything out of the ordinary here in providing a little political cover for a controversial decision, and nobody spearheading these investigations can cite any specific examples of rules being broken. As Public Knowledge is quick to point out, the White House commenting on FCC policy is pretty standard operating procedure for both parties and perfectly legal:

“…every President in the last 30 years has weighed in publicly with the FCC on issues of national importance. It did not violate the FCC?s independence when President George W. Bush publicly called for Chairman Michael Powell to vote on deregulating media ownership, or when President Bill Clinton wrote a public letter to Chairman Reed Hundt to ban hard liquor advertising on television. It also did not violate the FCC?s independence when President Ronald Reagan asked Chairman Mark Fowler to drop his proposal to rescind the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules. Similarly, President Obama has not violated the independence of the FCC by making his support for strong net neutrality rules under Title II public.”

If you’ve been reading the profiles on Wheeler’s mindset shift, you’ll also notice he appears to be the kind of guy who actually bases his decisions on careful consideration of the facts, and in very un-partisan political fashion appears willing to change his position if consistently contradicted by said facts (strange and unfamiliar, I know). Wheeler was told by more than a few telecom lawyers that his attempt to use the “commercial reasonableness” standard under Section 706 of the Telecom Act to police ISP behavior would be legally untenable and abused by ISPs, so he’s decided to go Title II. He was also, on at least one occasion, called a dingo.

The White House gave political cover, but there’s nothing new or seedy about that. There’s also nothing new about broadband ISPs using politicians like marionettes, or partisan politicians pretending to be outraged when the other party does something that’s fairly standard operating procedure. Similarly, there’s nothing new about politicians pretending to adore certain values that are nowhere to be found when they’re the ones in power.

For example, former Verizon regulatory lawyer turned FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai spent the week whining about the fact that the FCC’s neutrality plans haven’t been made public ahead of the February 26 vote. Pai, a walking personification of revolving door regulators, absolutely is correct that we should all be able to read the net neutrality rules right now. Still, FCC rules prohibiting publication of proposals ahead of a vote have been in place for years, impact both parties, and have been the bane of telecom beat reporters for years. Of course, you’d have to ignore the fact that Pai is the same gentleman who denies that the broadband market is uncompetitive, and has absolutely no problem with ISPs non-transparently writing state laws that keep things that way. As such, you wonder just how far this sudden breathless interest in transparency goes, and whether or not it will choose to stick around should the FCC bear witness to a 2016 party shift.

It’s worth reiterating for the thousandth time, however, that despite this kind of partisan histrionics, net neutrality isn’t a partisan issue, and it’s a concept strongly supported by Progressives and Conservatives alike. It has only devolved into a droll, Democrat/Republican feud because companies find partisan politics to be a useful form of distracting idiocy. It has been especially useful the last ten years as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast coordinate round after round of partisan pattycake to deflect attention from the real problem: their anti-competitive stranglehold over the broadband last mile, and the abysmal customer service and awful pricing that Democrats, Republicans and Independents all get to enjoy as a result.

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Comments on “Net Neutrality Opponents Ignore History In Pretending FCC's Decision Breaks Some Made Up Rules”

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25 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Can anyone else smell that?

It smells like desperation to me.

Cracking the whip over the heads of their bought politicians to try and throw together a last minute ‘fix’ via congress to head off the FCC, laughable tv and internet ads, and now calling for an ‘investigation’… They’re really throwing anything they can think of out to delay or derail Title II from coming into play, showing just how desperate they’re getting.

Can’t wait to see what extra crazy they’ll pull out as the month advances and it comes closer to the official discussion/proposal, I’m sure it will be absolutely epic.

Karl Bode (profile) says:

Re: Can anyone else smell that?

It’s going to get increasingly ridiculous as we move past the partisan vote and into the inevitable lawsuits from ISPs and all their policy friends. As with state municipal broadband bans, I find their arguments are only getting weaker as we move forward and they face a larger and larger groundswell of public support for some kind of real rules of the road.

TruthHurts (profile) says:

Dear Congresscritter....

Your constituents are calling, and they want their votes back.

We the people (real people, not the fake people created out of ether by the Supreme Court – ie – not CORPORATIONS who aren’t people), want Title II applied to all Internet providers, back-bone providers, cellular providers, cable providers, etc…

Why do we want this to happen?

We’re tired of these NON-PEOPLE delivering truckloads of money to your wallets making you vote against the best interests of the PEOPLE (not corporations) that you are supposed to represent.

We’re tired of having our wallets / purses raped, pillaged and plundered for obscene amounts of money for something that should be minimal cost.

Your voters are watching, make sure you do the right thing.

Can you say recall? Impeachment? Lawsuit? Criminal proceedings?

You may see any or all of the above if you even think about blocking Title II being applied to any and all internet providers (That includes Cellular carriers – which are the worst wallet rapers out there).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Dear Congresscritter....

The problem is less their constituents being uninformed, and more their constituents not communicating with them post swearing in.

A big problem with American politics is that people thing their job ends after they cast their vote. They don’t take the time to check upcoming issues, form an opinion, and call or write their congressman and senators to express their desires. Without their constituents constantly giving them their marching orders, congress just does whatever it pleases, and figures as long as they get re-elected, they did a fine job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Dear Congresscritter....

the electorate is full of idiots.

You can’t go 10 votes without spotting 9 voters that know nothing about their own nation.

Both parties rely on low information voters to churn the ranks. And Obama & his ilk want more for their side to help with the illegals. The Repukes only complain because those votes are not likely to go to them, but just like Bush, they support amnesty behinds closed door for their cheap laborers.

When it comes to illegals its a triple win for the Socials and the “Cloward–Piven strategy”. Regardless of whether they are actively aiming for this is besides the point of it actually starting to come true.

The outbreaks like measles are being accused on the anti-vaccine crowds when really, its just a bunch of people from underdeveloped countries just rolling in. The anti-vac types are just being made into scape goats because its easy.

People are stupid, greedy, and ignorant. Cannot be bothered with improving their situation, and damn sure cannot be bothered with learning shit. America is a beacon of what happens when a nation moves from ideals of Liberty and Self Reliance to hand outs and purchased votes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Dear Congresscritter....

my facts are straight.

Illegals nothing more than ignorant and stupid pawns in just another political game to secure power or money or both.

The real problem comes when someone decides they need to protect their nation and starts a war over it.

Look at parts of Europe where they are rioting over immigration there and they are more liberal than we are on it. Don’t be stupid and ignorant… it’s coming to us already… you just don’t notice that it is here yet.

You must vote or one of the parties.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Dear Congresscritter....

Dear Racist Anonymous Coward,

On second thought, scratch the “Dear”.

You’re an obsessed fool and a bigot.

All this about people who “cannot be bothered with improving their situation”.. Do you not understand that’s why people immigrate to the U.S., legally or otherwise, to try to improve their situation and their families’, at great hardship to themselves?

The outbreaks like measles are being accused on the anti-vaccine crowds when really, its just a bunch of people from underdeveloped countries just rolling in…

Oh hey look, you’re wrong again. Vaccination rates are actually higher in (for example) Mexico than in the U.S. (See http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.IMM.MEAS/countries for a handy reference.)

Go vomit your racist bile someplace else.

Rupert Pupkin says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Dear Congresscritter....

Regarding deportations, the notion that Obama deported a record number has been debunked by just about every fact-checker with a pulse. Only by counting illegals turned back at the border as deportations, a definition NEVER used before, has Obama “deported” a record number. Meanwhile actual deportations are lower than they have been in years.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Dear Congresscritter....

“A big problem with American politics is that people thing their job ends after they cast their vote.”

This is one of the Top 5 problems in my view. I think it’s an unexpected side effect of the huge amount of effort that is put into getting people to vote. That essentially fetishizes voting and encourages people to think that voting is some kind of magic bullet and is sufficient in terms of working toward good government. That’s wrong in every way. Voting is necessary, but insufficient.

Anonymous Coward says:

There was a “Letter to the Editor” this morning in the local rag which reads:

“Tom Wheeler, the head of the Federal Communications System, is against net neutrality. Translation: He would like to make it a utility, thus allowing the likes of the Koch brothers and their ilk to manipulate it to their own ends.

I see net neutrality as an issue of free speech. The wealthy already control much of what we hear, read and see. Could this be another nail in the coffin of free speech?

If Norman Rockwell were alive today and asked to redo his painting called The Four Freedoms, I wonder what it would look like. I think that the freedoms of want, speech and fear might be altered. I wonder what our congressmen think about Wheeler’s stance. I think we should ask them.”

I seriously couldn’t tell if the writer was joking…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sounds to me like someone who’s taken the ISP’s spin on the issue hook line and sinker.

The funniest part of course has got to be that second sentence and the part that follows it, where the person talked about how if the government gets their slimy hands on the internet then rich businessmen will be able to control it to their own ends… without apparently realizing that that’s what we have now, and a big reason why things are as bad as they currently are.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Only a fool, or someone with an agenda fights an imaginary threat

If it was even close to that sure of a bet, the ISP/cable companies wouldn’t be throwing massive amounts of time and money into trying to stop the FCC, they’d have just sat back and waited.

The fact that they are going so nuts over the matter would seem to suggest that they at least certainly think that the FCC has the power and authority to do what they are attempting, and they’re doing whatever they can think of to stop them.

Anonymous Coward says:

This just in… The House and the Senate are also undertaking investigations into claims that the American public improperly pressured FCC chairman Tom Wheeler into adopting Title II regulations. Telephone and cable operators allege that they did everything by the book in lobbying Congress and supporting their elections, and are now crying foul against the American public for unfairly interfering with their efforts.

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