Outgoing FCC Boss Warns New FCC About The Perils Of Killing Net Neutrality

from the prepare-for-a-backlash dept

We’ve noted a few times how the incoming Trump-led FCC has made it clear that it not only wants to roll back net neutrality and new broadband privacy rules, but also defund and defang the FCC entirely. The majority of Trump telecom advisors believe that the FCC serves absolutely no role as a consumer protection agency, and should be torn down to the studs — its only function being to help manage wireless spectrum. With the broadband market clearly broken and uncompetitive (exhibit A: Comcast and its hidden fees, usage caps, and historically awful customer service), eliminating most regulatory oversight of the sector would obviously compound most of the existing problems.

In his last speech as acting agency head (pdf) ahead of his resignation this week, FCC boss Tom Wheeler warned the new, incoming FCC that rolling back net neutrality is going to not only drive massive consumer backlash against net neutrality opponents, but it’s going to be legally difficult after the FCC’s court victory last year. Wheeler also noted how the justifications for quickly moving to kill net neutrality rules (such as the repeatedly debunked claim that the rules harmed network investment) are flimsy, at best:

“Yes, we must be vigilant. And the first step in such vigilance is to ask those who want to rush to take away existing protections a simple question: where?s the fire? What has happened since the Open Internet rules were adopted to justify uprooting the policy? As I said a moment ago, network investment is up, investment in innovative services is up, and ISPs revenues ? and stock prices – are at record levels. So, where?s the fire Other than the desires of a few ISPs to be free of meaningful oversight, why the sudden rush to undo something that is demonstrably working?

Vigilance requires the FCC or the Congress make the case as to why the American tradition of open networks should be reversed. Fortunately, the rules under which the FCC must operate provides for just such vigilance. Contrary to what you might have heard, reversing the Open Internet rules is not a slam dunk. The effort to undo an open Internet will face the high hurdle, imposed by the Administrative Procedure Act, of a fact-based showing that so much has changed in just two short years that a reversal is justified.”

Of course, the new FCC and its net neutrality opponents don’t have to kill the rules procedurally — they can initially just choose to not enforce them. From there, the most likely course of action is to push a new law through Congress that pays lots of lip service to net neutrality and broadband deployment, but is written to actively sabotage regulatory oversight. Such a law likely will contain net neutrality “restrictions” so riddled with loopholes as to effectively make violating net neutrality the law of the land (kind of like the Thune/Upton proposal we warned you about last year).

Whatever the path to deconstruction, Wheeler warned of the obvious, negative repercussions of putting the wolves in charge of the henhouse, and killing rules preventing incumbent ISPs from charging innovators and competitors a “troll toll” just to connect to their customers (aka double dipping):

“We have already seen how AT&T and Verizon have favored their own video services by zerorating their product while forcing consumers to pay data charges for competitors. Just take that behavior and look how it would affect other 21st century services.

Whether it?s Amazon Web Services, or Microsoft?s Azure, or Salesforce.com?s integrated cloudbased activities, ISPs free from open access obligations and behavioral oversight can choke growth and innovation, or, at the least, demand tribute for passing over their network.”

Net neutrality has always been, at its core, about a lack of last mile broadband competition. It’s about incumbent ISPs using this monopoly over the broadband last mile to charge companies and consumers — already paying an arm and a leg for broadband — an additional troll toll. It’s what began the debate when former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre crowed he wouldn’t let “Google ride his pipes for free,” and it has simply evolved in the era of “zero rating” — which requires that competing streaming TV platforms pay up if they want to operate on the same playing field as incumbent services.

It’s the lack of competition that creates and encourages net neutrality, privacy, and other ISP abuse. Eliminating rules protecting consumers from this problem — then gutting all regulatory oversight of the nation’s least-liked companies — won’t magically fix this problem, it will simply make it exponentially worse. And while the incoming FCC and its ISP allies are chomping at the bit to begin deconstructing net neutrality, broad, bipartisan consumer support for net neutrality means they can expect a techno-activist backlash that will make the response to SOPA look like a beach-side blanket picnic.

Net neutrality opponents can certainly proceed with their plan to kill net neutrality, but the effort is going to come with a price tag most of them violently underestimate.

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Comments on “Outgoing FCC Boss Warns New FCC About The Perils Of Killing Net Neutrality”

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Vidiot (profile) says:

Count the public out

Boy, do I hate the stupid term “sheeple”… but it’s hard not to think of it in regard to net neutrality. I’m not convinced we’ll ever see the kind of backlash that Wheeler’s trying to threaten the telecoms with; and I think those execs know it. And they’re having a good chuckle.

Hate to be this way, but I think the vast majority of consumers are happy to grab the tiny discounts thrown at them and call it “value”; they’ll never attempt to grasp the admittedly confusing, upside-down concept of discounts as evil. Similarly, I can’t recall a mass demonstration of consumers chanting “More competition! More competition!”

I think this is a battle among the cognoscenti… those who understand and are outraged, versus those who understand and are hoping nobody notices.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Count the public out

Actually you’ll find them quoting our resident troll’s “Boycott or bend over” line, and declaring the refusal of the populace at large to return to the stone age as their consent to be thoroughly shafted by incumbent ISPs.

Partisan pattycake, identity politics, and misinformation rule the roost. What chance has a consumer got of organising a boycott that could get him labeled or ignored while every anarcho-capitalist else is hoping that the market will correct itself via spontaneous non-collective boycotting of bad service providers. Not. Gonna. Happen. We need a competent referee to enforce the laws that ensure that the market is as open, free, and fair to both the demand-side and the supply-side as possible. That’s the FCC’s job and they’re being gutted just as they were starting to actually do it.

Expect things to get a damn sight worse before they get better.

Anonymous Coward says:


I still a dingo. It is amazing how fast you all fall before a person that pays just a lit lip service to your ideals.

The new rules were just as terrible as the old rules and the FCC’s intentional ignorance of Zero Rating made it clear that the new guard was the same as the old guard, just wearing different clothes.

wheeler has you clowns completely fooled!

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: wheeler...

He’s working off of chaos/complexity theory and is hoping we have reached the part where the various elements of the market have begun to coalesce into self-organising oases of order. Yeah, right. In a two-horse race, i.e. the public V incumbent, that’s not going to happen.

There won’t be a big explosion followed by a reset that allows smaller companies in. The status quo might adjust a bit to accommodate small changes but not by much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: wheeler...

Negative, I have no illusion that a two horse race will occur. I only see a one horse race so far with a bunch of people acting like it is not. Meet the new master same as the old master my friend.

My bitching and moaning is over the fact that many of you fail to recognize this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: wheeler...

That is what gets me about you idiotic nubs.

bitching about the new rules being the same as the old rules does not imply that we should have no rules. But hey, nice straw-man argument… wait no, it sucked as usual.

I am just commenting on how stupid you all are for not understanding some simple words on a page. If you cannot even keep track of a simple argument there is no chance your millennial attention span could handle a serious argument with evidence and details.

Hell, it is all right there in the annals of history, but you cannot be bothered. If the solution is not stupid and handed to you on a platter you cannot help yourself can you?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: wheeler...

Sorry, I was going off knowledge of the idiocy of “no rules” usually spouted by an anonymous commenter who keeps coming in here with nothing else to say. If you’re a different AC threadshitter, I apologise.

So, do you have anything to say of any input in between the half-baked attempts at insults, or is this merely how you like to pass the time?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 wheeler...

No need for apologies, it is the internet. It does not matter what I think, it never has. I have been here more than enough to know that intelligent and meaningful discussion is undesirable. Additionally, anything other than passive aggressive insulting is disliked as though passive aggressive behavior should be somehow acceptable while more honest and direct insults are just wrong.

The hypocrisy in these forums is quite excessive, please continue to attribute the few things I say to imply that I mean several other things I do not. I only disparage you for it, because I believe you have made comments that yo hate generalizations or labels despite having assumed a few of your own.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 wheeler...

please continue to attribute the few things I say to imply that I mean several other things I do not.

There’s a simple solution to being misattributed: MAKE A FUCKING ACCOUNT. But you won’t because you know you will forced to eat the stupid shit you spew.

I only disparage you for it, because I believe you have made comments that yo hate generalizations or labels despite having assumed a few of your own.

How would you know that? Maybe because PaulT has the courage of his convictions and stand by the things he says, preferring not to be a shitposter like you.

EVERY comment you make will be marked "reported" by me. Nobody needs to read your stupid shit that even you won’t stand behind.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: wheeler...

See, your problem is that you seem to assume everyone here takes Wheeler as some sort of god of net neutrality. He’s pretty good, especially considering where he came from. He did some good things. Didn’t push enough for other things. But then, he is also not god off the FCC with unlimited power to set rules as he sees them. Certainly not given others in the FCC.

So you are shouting at nothing. No one “bought into” Wheeler. He was a good improvement over things that have been before, but i have seen no one here having some grand illusions about him.

Maybe that’s why your “argument” just rolls past everyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

So much for bringing jobs home.

Been around since the epoch. I’ve seen pretty much every market leader try and burn the Internet to the ground at some point.

What I know:

1. Cartel regulatory capture in this market place is as destructive as federal regulatory capture.

2. Regulatory capture at the state level is so corrupt that it can scarcely be called anything but street thuggery.

3. Closed standards adopt at the rate of patent expiration. Open standards adopt at the rate of interoperabilty.

4. Telecom is not a commodity, it is a utility. Commodity based economic models do not apply.

5. Technology is cheap to replicate.

While the U.S. is a leader, it’s dominance is preserved by the free interchange of ideas, not by market capitalization. (3,4,5)

AT&T and Comcast both regard the first amendment with a degree of corrosive malevolence that warrants a national punitive response. (1,2)

These are not American companies. These are anti-American companies. The way you know that, is that the technology they presume to call “innovation” violates the bill of rights. And the bill of rights, IS WHY WE WIN. (1,2,3,4,5)

Letting AT&T and Comcast pig fuck the Internet will move the corporate head quarters of every new tech company that comes down the pipe, to the EU, India, and Mexico.

So shine up your passport bitches. We are all taking a little trip.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So much for bringing jobs home.

never underestimate the globalists ability to corner a market.

they have been at this for much longer than you think. There is a reason TTIP, TPP, and TISA are constant threats to the world.

OP might be correct and those things MIGHT happen, but likely not for long. It is just the nature of companies and businesses to collude until the corruption is so entrenched in affairs that it requires bloodshed to resolve.

The American Declaration says what this problem is in a nutshell.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Humans have a long history of developing Stockholm syndrome in this respect. Just like here in this forum where all of the acolytes still think Wheeler is not a dingo because he made terrible but “nice sounding” rules. For them… it is always about the theater and never about the rubber that hits the road.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So much for bringing jobs home.

Just like here in this forum where all of the acolytes still think Wheeler is not a dingo because he made terrible but "nice sounding" rules.

You say this despite the clear and incontrovertible mountains of evidence (ie: many, many articles decrying the rules falling short and not being implemented fully), yet somehow you think people will take you seriously?

You’re very deluded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So much for bringing jobs home.

“Telecom is not a commodity, it is a utility”
LOL! With automation in time everything but food and shelter will be a commodity.

“Technology is cheap to replicate.”
The notion of “cheap” only makes sens when you have money left over after buying food and covering your ass from the elements.

We’re headed towards feudalism guys and short of mass revolt (not necessarily violent) there is no regulation that can stop that.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: So much for bringing jobs home.

Food and shelter have always been commodities.

We are indeed headed towards feudalism, egged on by anarchists who can’t or won’t accept that government by and for the people must not perish from the earth.

Government is currently by and for the corporations and anyone who argues against this gets labeled a socialist. Worse still, the right wing anarchists behind all this have successfully cast themselves as mainstream. Constitutional conservatives should have seen this coming and should have done something about it, but they fell for the partisan pattycake game. Now they’ve been pushed to the fringes and the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Only governMENT can deliver governANCE. Will it take two-four years of Trump to teach you that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So much for bringing jobs home.

>LOL! With automation in time everything but food and shelter will be a commodity.

The distinguishing factor in this case is not technology or trade, but physical force. Telecom has functioned world-wide as an agency of state (AoS) since the first international cables were CC’d to a couple of guys in a shack in NYC without warrant. (the beginning of the NSA)

Most countries acknowledge this relationship. In the U.S. the courts uniformly disregard the role of modern telecom as an agency of state. Instead we play a game of cup and ball with habeas corpus.

The telecom is a civil entity for the purpose of contract, and therefore exempt from litigation on the basis of Constitutional law (as if it wasn’t an AoS), and a “witness” (rather than a AoS) when it testifies in court. BUT, they implement surveillance independently, on monopoly infrastructure, negating any legal consideration for the parties originating communications. Then they provide that privately manufactured surveillance data to the state without warrant.

So compliance with intrusions into speech and trade are compelled onto the user by means of interstate trade regulation, but without ever articulating the specific intent of that regulation. Which is to provide a means of interfering with people beyond the limits authorized by law.

So citizens are legally restricted from digging a well, (speaking or making contracts privately). But the state never specifically restricted your right to drink water, and oh, BTW, the state has this nice well you can buy water from over here, under terms that are (ahem) civil (rather than public. And BTW, it happens to be the only well in town.

And it should be said, that while the state plays this game of cup and ball, the telecoms are using this duality of legal presence for their own ends. Which is progressively diffusing not only the peoples civil rights, but the states ability to communicate with it’s constituents.

Which is to say that Congress is becoming progressively and slowly divorced from its own regulatory role. Not that it keeps them from pontificating. But what they say is falling on deafer, and deafer ears. Which is cool with them, because they are egoists who never listen to anybody else anyway.

If telecom becomes commoditized it will be by means of technological civil revolt. IOW technical infrastructure that makes the network ONLY function when civil rights are respected.

My expectation, is that as this inevitability looms, the oligarchy will do what it always does when the labor class starts figuring out how badly its getting fucked. Which is invent a world war so it can kill off its labor class by proxy. (Which appears to be what McCain and his pals are up to.)

The challenge before the FCC now, is not whether progress can be achieved by means of regulation. Clearly that ship has sailed. It is whether they can keep things from going completely off the rails while they are in office.

Based on what’s going on now. I’d say that would be a “no”

Anonymous Coward says:

I am a strong supporter of Net Neutrality but people don’t understand what it even is. Many people I have chatted with are clueless and think cutting it is a good idea. While I don’t like it, sometime the only method of teaching is to learn from your mistakes. With Trump at the helm, there might be a few too many distractions to learn from it though.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

President* Trump has had more distractions and scandals before inauguration than most Presidents have after. Net Neutrality will be way down the list of things we’re distracted from.

* Sports and other achievements tainted by some unusual conditions get noted with an asterisk. It seems suitable to call him President* Trump, if you don’t mind a few hostile 3am tweets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Could is a very obtuse term here.

Yes, they could…

the real question is why SHOULD they? FTC has every bit the history of dereliction of duty just as the FCC. Last I checked no election has ever focused on the corruption of the Federal government or its many agencies. Not even Trump’s campaign spoke much of it. Often times it only comes up in the form of “slogans & rhetoric” like “hope & change” or “make America great again” or “yes we can” or “stronger together”. Getting the picture here?

Lip service and Theater is the name of the game, no one seems hardly interested in honesty and integrity. Any attempt to actually clean up DC would result in assassination and/or revulsion of the People. Americans have grown so accustomed to the corruption many do not even see it present while the rest think there is no way out of it or a solution. Just like Stockholm victims, they have grown dependent upon their captors.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Right wing anarchists can’t bring themselves to call themselves that for some reason, Thad. One presumes it’s because they want to convince us that their views are mainstream and all opposition is left/liberal. I’m seeing this a lot on social media.

I confront them with this truth and call them on it. While I don’t approve of anarchy as such it does act as a safety valve, showing us where the limits of our freedom is. They have their place in political discourse, but at the back, not front and centre.

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