Trump Formally Picks Two Net Neutrality Opponents To Head FCC Transition
from the restocking-the-swamp dept
Trump this week formally selected two staunch opponents of net neutrality to oversee the incoming President’s FCC transition team. Economist Jeff Eisenach and former Sprint Corp lobbyist Mark Jamison both have deep-rooted ties to the broadband sector, and both played major roles in helping the industry fight passage of the U.S.’s net neutrality rules last year. We had already noted that incumbent ISPs like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast have been getting excited by the possibility of a hamstrung FCC and the roll back of numerous consumer-friendly policies made under the tenure of outgoing FCC boss Tom Wheeler.
Eisenach, formerly a consultant for Verizon and a think tanker over at the American Enterprise Institute, testified as an “objective” expert in a 2014 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on net neutrality. There, Eisenach boldly declared that “net neutrality would not improve consumer welfare or protect the public interest.” Similarly, in an AEI blog post last year, Eisenach again proclaimed that net neutrality doesn’t help consumers, isn’t necessary, and is little more than just “crony capitalism”:
“Despite what you may have heard, net neutrality is not about protecting consumers from rapacious Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It would not make broadband more available in rural America, or lower prices for small businesses. And it has nothing to do with protecting free speech or dissenting voices. Net neutrality is crony capitalism pure and simple ? an effort by one group of private interests to enrich itself at the expense of another group by using the power of the state.”
For somebody who has supposedly made an entire living discussing the telecom sector, that’s a staggering misrepresentation of the concept of net neutrality. As our readers know, the telecom market suffers painfully from limited competition, resulting in some of the highest broadband prices in the developed world (OECD data) and some of the worst customer service in any sector. Eisenach is of the vein of telecom-friendly allies that willfully ignore this fact in order to justify further sector deregulation.
And while deregulation can be a useful tool in healthy, functional markets that truly suffer from government over-reach, in the telecom sector (where incumbent ISP think tankers like Eisenach have polluted intelligent discourse) deregulation has an entirely different meaning. For most of these folks, deregulation quite literally means letting giant duopolists quite literally write telecom law. In telecom, we’ve discussed how this form of deregulation (time and time and time again) only makes the already broken telecom market worse for consumers and innovation.
Net neutrality, however imperfect the rules wind up being, is at least an attempt to create some layer of protection for consumers against incumbent ISPs looking to abuse their monopoly over the last mile. Both Eisenach and Jamison have made careers out of not only ignoring the lack of telecom sector competition, but the fact that net neutrality has broad, bipartisan support among consumers. It’s worth noting that Eisenach isn’t just tasked with spearheading Trump’s telecom transition, he’s in the running for the top FCC spot himself.
And it’s not just net neutrality Eisenach would dismantle. Under Eisenach’s outdated policies, gone too would be the FCC’s recently passed privacy rules, which ensure consumers are clearly informed of what data is collected and who it’s sold to, while ensuring ISPs provide users with working opt-out tools. In fact, the very FCC itself is likely at risk, as the GOP has made it abundantly clear that it plans to completely rewrite the Communications Act with an eye on one thing: ensuring the FCC lacks the funding and authority to effectively protect consumers from dominant, incumbent broadband providers.
Appointing two telecom-sector cronies to guide the FCC runs in stark contrast to Trump’s claims that he’d “drain the swamp.” Defanging the FCC so companies like Comcast grow even more powerful would be a crushing blow to consumer welfare. And the erosion of popular net neutrality rules would be a kick to the gut of the supposed “populist” rhetoric at the very heart of the Trump campaign.