Trump Telecom Advisor Doesn't Think Broadband Monopolies Are Real, Wants To Dismantle The FCC

from the Comcastic dept

We just got done noting how despite all the hype surrounding Google Fiber and similar initiatives, the cable industry’s monopoly over broadband service is growing larger than ever. Incumbent telcos don’t want to upgrade their DSL customers across huge portions of their networks, effectively giving cable broadband less competition than ever. At the same time, we’ve noted how Trump’s telecom transition team is thus far comprised of telecom sector cronies that not only can’t admit the broadband market isn’t competitive, but are eager to demolish all regulatory oversight of these anti-competitive carriers.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of insight to see the problem with that scenario, yet here we are — once again — having this conversation anyway. Apparently, it’s somehow hard to understand that giving incumbent ISPs control of the very agency tasked with regulating them doesn’t end well for consumers, small businesses, or innovative new startups.

Jeffrey Eisenach, Trump’s FCC transition team leader, ISP-funded “think tanker” and a candidate for the top FCC spot, thinks net neutrality and the FCC need dismantling. Former Sprint lobbyist Mark Jamison, also tasked with leading Trump’s telecom team, also thinks net neutrality rules should be walked back and the FCC defanged. Jamison apparently doesn’t believe telecom monopolies are real and thinks the FCC serves no purpose. In an October blog post, Jamison makes his thoughts clear:

“Most of the original motivations for having an FCC have gone away. Telecommunications network providers and ISPs are rarely, if ever, monopolies. If there are instances where there are monopolies, it would seem overkill to have an entire federal agency dedicated to ex ante regulation of their services. A well-functioning Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in conjunction with state authorities, can handle consumer protection and anticompetitive conduct issues.”

Again, so we’re clear, that’s a lobbyist tasked with deciding the future of the FCC declaring that telecom monopolies not only aren’t real, but also that the FCC technically shouldn’t exist. Most of our readers are well aware of the fact that most broadband markets suffer from a duopoly logjam, where their choices are overpriced cable broadband service, or DSL services that offer circa 2003 speeds and 2016 prices. And again, as we noted recently, cable’s monopoly is only growing as companies like AT&T and Verizon give up on fixed line broadband and shift their attention to higher-growth advertising and content markets.

To deny these realities borders on outright delusion. But time and time again, we’ve seen how incumbent ISPs (and the loyal sycophants they use to bend government to their will) are utterly incapable of even admitting the U.S. broadband market isn’t competitive. If you can’t admit this lack of competition, you’re certainly not going to be able to understand the steps necessary to fixing it. Gutting most regulatory oversight, demolishing net neutrality, and dismantling the FCC’s new privacy rules won’t somehow magically result in telecom utopia.

This is a line of fantasy the incumbent ISPs (and their various, well-funded policy tendrils) have been mainlining into the public discourse for the better part of the last twenty years despite a parade of evidence to the contrary. A major reason Comcast and AT&T are abysmal companies isn’t because the FCC tries to protect consumers. It’s because gentlemen just like Eisenach and Jamison spent the lion’s share of the last twenty years denying there’s a problem while actively trying to prevent the agency from doing its job. They then clap and dance like school children when the dysfunction they built by hand suddenly manifests.

None of this is to say the FCC doesn’t do stupid things, shouldn’t and couldn’t be reformed, or in many instances pared back. And Jamison’s certainly correct that partisan patty cake is a problem at the agency that can and does result in inconsistent progress (even though partisan infighting is often intentionally used by companies to sow division on non-partisan issues like net neutrality). But reform is a far cry from what Jamison is proposing. What Jamison wants is to dismantle the FCC completely and shovel any outstanding responsibilities to the states:

“What would we do without an FCC? Any legitimate universal service concerns could be handled by others: States can subsidize network access as they see fit, the Department of Health and Human Services can incorporate telecommunications and internet into its assistance to low-income households, and the FTC and states can handle consumer protection and ex post regulation.”

Right, but if you know anything about the telecom market at all, you know that state legislatures are beholden to incumbent broadband providers to an even more comic degree. Incumbent ISPs, with the help of groups like ALEC and lobbyists like Jamison, quite literally write state telecom law. That’s why twenty states have passed laws, written by ISP lawyers, hamstringing their citizens’ ability to build their own networks or strike public/private partnerships in case of market failure. This corruption is why AT&T is able to try and sneak competition-killing measures into unrelated traffic laws. That’s why states like West Virginia are an absolute telecom shit show dominated by broken monopolies Jamison pretends don’t exist.

Many Trump supporters will try to point out that current FCC boss Tom Wheeler was a former wireless and cable lobbyist we all expected nothing from, but were pleasantly surprised by. But Wheeler was an enigma, and he isn’t like Jamison or Eisenach. His lobbying for the wireless and cable sectors occurred when both industries were pesky upstarts. His documented positions were also vastly less extreme. He wasn’t stumbling about proclaiming that the agency he was about to be employed by shouldn’t exist, or denying fundamental realities like the existence of telecom monopolies. And Jamison and Eisenach are on record criticizing nearly all of Wheeler’s policies, especially net neutrality.

Consumers tired of awful broadband should be bored to tears by the parade of ISP lobbyists, think tankers, lobbyists, consultants and other mouthpieces who endlessly insist government telecom oversight never works — then set about spending millions of dollars and decades to ensure it can’t. The FCC, under both parties, certainly has a long history of dysfunction that needs fixing. But anybody that actually thinks that dismantling regulatory oversight of the nation’s broken broadband duopoly is a panacea has been fed a line of stale bullshit. When you put the foxes in charge of the hen house you don’t get better eggs — you get a bloodbath and a call to Comcast customer service. Why exactly is this such a difficult lesson for us to learn?

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Comments on “Trump Telecom Advisor Doesn't Think Broadband Monopolies Are Real, Wants To Dismantle The FCC”

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48 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Well...

Gutting most regulatory oversight, demolishing net neutrality, and dismantling the FCC’s new privacy rules won’t somehow magically result in telecom utopia.

That depends on which side you’re looking at it from. From the position of the general public, no, such an action is like lighting the fuse on bomb, it’s going to blow up in your face, the only questions are ‘How soon?’ and ‘How much damage is it going to cause?’

On the other hand, from the perspective of the telecom companies dismantling the rules and gutting the oversight will absolutely result in a ‘telecom utopia’. No longer will they have to pay empty lip-service about ‘serving the best interests of their customers’, no longer will they feel the need to justify stuff like caps and zero rating as somehow ‘customer friendly’ in order to avoid the possibility of an investigation and/or fine, instead they’ll be able to focus entirely on ‘How can we squeeze the most money from the saps we’ve got signed up with us, for the least amount of effort on our part?’

The ones arguing that gutting the regulations and removing the oversight will be a huge boon are technically correct, it’s just they’re being misleading and dishonest to the extreme in claiming that the ones who will benefit will be the public.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Well...

instead they’ll be able to focus entirely on ‘How can we squeeze the most money from the saps we’ve got signed up with us, for the least amount of effort on our part?’

That’s step 1. If that goes well, step 2 is figuring out if they can get the state to just pay them and not bother with actually serving customers at all. Not sure if they could actually get that done but I wouldn’t put it past them to try.

Anonymous Coward says:

Resident anti FCC nutter here.

I completely support the destruction of the FCC.

The Agency has done nothing positive for the public and helped create and establish the telco Monopolies that Trump refuses to see.

Since Obama didn’t get that Hope & Change everyone thought he was peddling maybe with the destruction of the FCC, the FTC might grow a pair and do it’s worthless job in the FCC’s place.

Then, just maybe THEN… the people will wake up and directly ask a new candidate next year what they plan to do with the mess?

Ahh…. who am I fucking kidding, it’s going to be more of the same of 2016 with worse candidates for 2020 and even more division. The People will not learn… they never do, they are dumb enough to think we live in a fucking democracy… and are too easy to fool!

I.T. Guy says:

Re: Re: Resident anti FCC nutter here.

I don’t watch much TeeVee and get a little break from the depressing news of the day(s)during these long breaks and weekends.

Coming back to work is not so bad as I like my job. It’s reading sh*t like this that is the downer.

I almost wish an EMP burst from the sun would make us all Amish again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Complete deregulation would be a disaster for the telcos.

“What they want is selective deregulation that keeps the regulations they like and gets rid of the others.”

Absolutely agree. The last thing they want is zero regulation. They would have to compete on the open market. Either get rid of the FCC, or give it real teeth. Having it in a half assed position of authority is a complete waste.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s all a matter of perspective.

for example, Justin Trudeau was paying some nice lip service to Fidel Castro, so he thinks that turd mutt fucker was “great” too.

America is only as great as its people, and I don’t think there are a lot of great Americans… definitely not enough to stave off the swelling masses of stupid Americans.

I.T. Guy says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think it’s stupidity, more like apathy. We all like to think that we a are smarter than the average person, but I have found that unless one has a learning disability they can be taught, and even what appears to be a “dumb” person is just someone with a lack of interest. It’s the interest and willingness to learn that becomes an obstacle. It’s not that they can’t.

Dunno, maybe I am too optimistic of the abilities of my fellow citizens. Maybe we’ve become too passive.

Or… it’s all the goddamned chem-trails and fluoride in the water.

Gotcha 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Dunno, maybe I am too optimistic of the abilities of my fellow citizens. Maybe we’ve become too passive.”

Become? No, always have been. The founding of America and the Founders themselves talked extensively about the nature of humanity and its propensity for enduring evil. Which is also why they trash talked democracies as suicidal constructs.

Keep having the optimism about your fellow citizens, there may not be anything wrong with it, but do not discount the nature and history of humanity when you do. Things have to become worse before we decide it is worth the risk to die in the effort to make it better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 TV

I frequently maintain that things won’t significantly change until the ISPs/powers that be f*ck up the average American’s TV, and with monopolies and data caps they may be well along the path to doing just that. Me, I am almost willing to offer up a shovel and tell them to keep digging themselves out of that hole. It’s a better watch than anything on television, ever.

Jesse says:

If only they knew.

Sadly the general public has no idea how fucked this is. I talk to people all over the flyover states with a 2 megabit connection that they think is “high speed” and pay on average about $65 a month for. They shit a brick when I have to tell them that their high latency and poor connection will not download a file over 4 Gigabytes without MD5 hash errors. “But AT&T says I have U-verse!” Like they believe that their shitty copper over a thousand feet out is something magic. The phone company in my area has still yet to provide DSL while the downtown area located approximately one mile away has had it for over ten years since USWEST put it there. If it wasn’t for Wave Broadband (a smaller and nicer cable company) there is no way I could have dreamed of having the 150 megabit connection I rely on daily. The people with DSL don’t even have a clue of what a good connection even feels like to use. So now those 2MB dsl customers can look forward to getting fucked more. This is what happens when you put Grandpa and the good old boys in charge of the internet. They don’t know what the fuck they are doing. Their assistants use the internet for them and write emails why they are out fucking hookers all day long. But the guys who need good communication to do their bidding for them will be fucked in the end standing outside a McDonalds at 3 in the morning trying to download.

Mat (profile) says:

Re: If only they knew.

As someone who is a tech who’s options are 1.5 Mbit or less “DSL” or satalite… Oh we’re -aware- and pretty much bent over backwards because we can’t afford to put in our own service individually, and there’s absolutely zero visible effort to fix the suburban much less rural like my area connections.

We’re aware, we’re pissed, and there’s about jack and shit we can do about it.”

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Even If You Buy Fantasy #1

Even if you accept Jamison’s Fantasy #1, that there is growing competition, so no anti-monopoly regs are required.

You still have the challenge of explaining how we don’t need any Net Neutrality protection in an era where all the network operators are vertically integrating by buying up content companies, TV networks, and production. You have to also create a fantasy where vertical integration isn’t a thing. That’s a harder delusion to sustain.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Aiding and Abetting The Shill Commissioners

Karl

With this

“the agency that can and does result in inconsistent progress (even though partisan infighting is often intentionally used by companies to sow division on non-partisan issues like net neutrality). “

You are providing false equivalence and not calling a spade a spade.

There is one political side that is consistently on the consumer’s side, and another political party whose reps are consistently the seemingly tone-deaf apologists who just happen to support incumbent positions.

Put more clearly: Dem Commissioners more often support consumer interests and GOP Commissioners more often support incumbent positions. The GOP Commissioners like Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly consistently side with incumbents. Not surprising, since the GOP commissioners are almost always former (and future) incumbent lobbyists.

I know you don’t want to get political. Nor do I. But what has being polite and offering false equivalence taught us? I still don’t think this is political to state that it’s the GOP at the FCC that’s selling the citizens down the river. It’s just reality.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Aiding and Abetting The Shill Commissioners

I agree with you that, on the present subject, it is unproductive. That is because people will take the accusation like babiest and lash back.

It is the fear of this blowback that keeps journalists from stating the obvious and true. Blame is avoided, although it may have been earned.

It is this chilling effect that invites further misconceptions that “gov’t” sucks, versus a more appropriate explanation that one party is more or less responsible.

Accountability goes out the window.

To avoid such confrontation is co-dependency. It is expedient, but it is not a good thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Fact check fail

For someone who rails against echo chambers you sure seem to be limiting yourself to a single website in researching your assertions.

Admittedly, a search of Open Secrets doesn’t return any lobbyist records for Mark Jamison. However, his biography (http://warrington.ufl.edu/centers/purc/docs/bio_MarkJamison.pdf) from the University of FL Public Utility Research Center states, “Previously, Dr. Jamison was manager of regulatory policy at Sprint.”

That’s the same Mark Jamison that penned the op-ed at Tech Policy Daily since his author page on there indicates he’s the director of the PURC at UFL. Maybe he wasn’t employed directly as a lobbyist since he was a manager, but it sure sounds to me like he supervised them, so claiming that he was never a lobbyist seems disingenuous at best.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Fact check fail

“The term lobbyist has a standard English meaning”

Yes. And it is Techdirt that seeks to use that English meaning.

It is YOU that seeks to use some website where lobbyists can use loopholes to avoid being “officially classified” as a lobbyist.

If I fish, every day. And sell my fish for money. And live off that money. But I DON’T get a fishing license. Am I not a Fisherman? In English as in reality, I am, but legally, I’m not.

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