Comcast Pinky Swears That The Death Of Net Neutrality Won't Hurt In The Slightest
from the just-a-little-pin-prick dept
In the wake of the FCC’s attempt to kill net neutrality, ISPs like Comcast have been working overtime trying to convince the press and public that nothing bad is actually happening. Shortly after the FCC voted to begin killing the rules, Comcast posted a trifecta of press statement, comment from company CEO Brian Roberts and commentary from top lobbyist David Cohen all saying the same thing: nothing bad is happening, and whatever happens — Comcast really, truly adores transparency and will work tirelessly to defend the open internet:
The fact that this runs in stark, documentable opposition to reality and Comcast’s behavior over the last twenty years isn’t something you’re supposed to dwell on. Cohen (the company gets mad at us for pointing out he’s still a lobbyist despite using the title of “Chief Diversity Officer” to dodge lobbying accountability rules) has also been spending the last month or so trying to argue that we can still have net neutrality despite walking back the FCC’s authority over broadband providers:
“While some try to conflate the two issues, Title II and net neutrality are not the same. Title II is a source of authority to impose enforceable net neutrality rules. Title II is not net neutrality. Getting rid of Title II does not mean that we are repealing net neutrality protections for American consumers.”
That ignores history. You’ll recall that the FCC’s original 2010 rules were demolished by the Verizon lawsuit, with the courts saying that the FCC couldn’t impose such rules without first classifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II. So in 2015, former FCC boss Tom Wheeler did precisely that. Walking back that decision means stripping out the legal authority to actually enforce net neutrality, and Comcast certainly knows this. In fact we’ve repeatedly noted how the government’s plan is to effectively gut privacy, net neutrality and other broadband consumer protections, and to replace them with the policy equivalent of wet tissue paper.
This message that nothing bad is actually happening and that Comcast really secretly loves net neutrality has been the cornerstone of an ongoing PR effort at the company the last few weeks. But given there’s few if any people who trust what’s arguably the least-liked company in America, responses to these claims on Twitter haven’t been what you’d call warm:
We already have what you are promising in the current Title II protections. So why do you want to change that? Don't lie. Tell us.
— Pat(ricia) Keller (@materialculture) May 1, 2017
One of the only pieces of evidence Comcast provides for its professed dedication to net neutrality is that it didn’t, unlike Verizon, sue to overturn the FCC’s 2010 rules. But as we noted back then, Comcast and AT&T didn’t oppose the rules back then because they weren’t really enforceable, but more importantly they simply didn’t do very much. Having been written by Google and major ISPs, they carved out massive loopholes for all manner of anti-competitive behavior, and didn’t even cover wireless networks.
But as the EFF writes in a missive taking aim at Comcast’s new image reformation effort, the company also saw no point in suing then because it was bound to adhere to the (already flimsy) rules as a condition of its 2011 merger with NBC Universal:
“In its PR campaign, Comcast claims that its decision not to challenge the 2010 Open Internet Order is evidence of its support for network neutrality. In reality, it’s likely the company stayed quiet because shortly after the Open Internet Order was approved Comcast was required to operate neutrally as a condition of its merger with NBC Universal. It had little to gain from publicly opposing the 2010 Order because they could not lift network neutrality obligations over their network even if they won in court due to merger conditions.”
In short, Comcast didn’t fight to overturn the 2010 rules because it loves net neutrality — it did so because it knew the rules were garbage, and merger conditions wound up binding the company to them anyway (for whatever good that would have actually done). It’s only once the rules had actual teeth — provided by Title II authority — that Comcast began to get nervous that somebody might actually stop the company from being an anti-competitive jackass.
Comcast’s positions are viciously contradicted by a decade of indisputable anti-competitive decisions on this front, including the company’s early decision to throttle all upstream BitTorrent traffic (and lie about it, repeatedly), its ham-fisted decision to use usage caps and overage fees to hamstring video competition, and it’s decision to try and limit what devices consumers use to view the content of their choice on the platforms of their choosing.
By and large you’d be hard pressed to believe any major ISP — especially Comcast — has much if any credibility on this subject, and it’s not really clear exactly who one of the least-liked companies in America thinks it’s fooling.