Wisconsin Senator Johnson Calls Net Neutrality 'A Slogan,' Laments The Lack Of 'Fast Lanes'

from the take-the-slow-lane-to-common-sense dept

Apparently hoping to generate some support for his unpopular plan to gut oversight of one of the least competitive business sectors in America, FCC boss Ajit Pai left DC last week to do a tour of some midwestern states. During that tour he stopped in Milwaukee to talk about net neutrality with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson on WTMJ Radio (you can listen to the full interview here). During the interview, Pai proclaimed that the entire concept of net neutrality is little more than a “slogan,” and that nobody should want government “dictating how the internet is run”:

“It?s a great slogan,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, when asked by a radio host what net neutrality is. “But in reality what it involves is Internet regulation, and the basic question is, ‘Do you want the government deciding how the Internet is run?'”

You’ll note that this is a guy that has repeatedly tried to claim he’s approaching all of this with an open mind, and would let the evidence and public feedback dictate the agency’s course. Given comments like this, and the fact that net neutrality has overwhelming bipartisan majority support, it’s pretty clear that won’t be happening. The interview, which offered no counter-opinion from anybody supporting (or even understanding) net neutrality, proceeded with Senator Johnson parroting what Pai had suggested:

“As chairman Pai said, net neutrality is a slogan,” Johnson said. “What you really want is an expansion of high-speed broadband, and in order to do that you have to create the incentives for those smaller ISPs to invest. They don?t really control their own fiber if the government tells them exactly how they?re going to use their investment.”

Huh. So was it a “slogan” to dislike Verizon and AT&T’s decision to block people from using competing mobile payment platforms to try and give their own effort a leg up? Was it a “slogan” to oppose AT&T’s decision to block people from using Facetime just to drive them to more expensive data plans? And is it a “slogan” to oppose Comcast’s use of unnecessary and arbitrary data caps and overage fees to not only jack up the price of broadband service in already-uncompetitive broadband markets — but to give its own streaming services an unfair market advantage?

Suggesting it’s a “slogan” to worry how limited broadband competition leads to this kind of anti-competitive behavior is about as reasonable as suggesting that not wanting to be punched in the jaw is a “jingle.” It makes no coherent sense.

And that’s the biggest problem with Pai’s decision to ignore the broad support the rules have and dismantle them anyway. His arguments in favor for killing the rules either make no coherent sense (like that time he suggested net neutrality rules embolden North Korean and Iranian dictators), or they’re long-debunked talking points that have been floating around the internet for the better part of the last decade. Like when Johnson continued the interview by proclaiming that we must kill net neutrality rules — or people may die!:

“Johnson thinks ISPs should be able to sell “fast lanes” to websites and online services that are willing to pay for quicker access to customers. “Chairman Pai just mentioned medical diagnostics,” Johnson said. “You might need a fast lane within that pipeline so those diagnoses can be transmitted instantaneously and not be held up by, I don’t know, maybe a movie streaming.”

So one, the current net neutrality rules carve out plenty of exceptions that let ISPs, companies and networks prioritize essential communications like medical technology. That’s never, ever been a real issue, and anybody claiming otherwise is lying to you. Like Pai’s former employer Verizon did in 2014, when it tried to claim that net neutrality rules should be killed because they’d stop deaf, blind and disabled people from getting access to essential services. In fact, this argument has been stumbling around in anti-net-neutrality circles for the better part of the last decade, and it doesn’t magically become any less of a lie with age.

Given the rules didn’t hurt investment, actually helped sort some anti-competitive behavior, and again have broad, bipartisan support, those looking to kill them have few viable arguments left to fall back on. As such, they’re apparently reduced to a winning combination of incoherence and outright lying. One more time with feeling: net neutrality is a good thing for companies and consumers alike. If you haven’t learned that yet, and the efforts to repeal the rules succeed, you may soon be getting a pretty nasty crash course as to precisely why.

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Comments on “Wisconsin Senator Johnson Calls Net Neutrality 'A Slogan,' Laments The Lack Of 'Fast Lanes'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Regulation not Run

‘Do you want the government deciding how the Internet is run?'”
I want them to regulate it so the market is fair, open and affordable. So yes I would love for the government to remain to be involved. The industry has shown time and time again it cannot self-regulate. so it is necessary for someone else to do it for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Idiot

I was just going to comment on that exact thing. Every single computer or network technician I know, knows this is just money grab by big ISPs. This is why I believe that laws should only be created by experts in those fields. Always a second or third opinion. You wouldn’t go to a lawyer to get your computer fixed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Feh. “Fast lanes” are just a euphemism for “toll lanes”. It’s easy to keep them “fast” when you can use high tolls to discourage people from using them. Meanwhile everyone else is stuck in the regular lanes in a traffic jam because all the improvements in capacity went towards the toll lanes.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s more than about tolls. It’s about partnering and exclusivity.

Where those operating the highway partner with one of the automobile manufacturers, giving their cars exclusive use of the fast lane and some on and off ramps.

Or they partner with a chain of gas stations, so that only signs for those stations appear along the highway.

Plus signs only for towns that pay them a fee. Why should they get a free ride?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

More nefarious than that, to continue your example:

Priority access is a two way payment – all consumers must pay for the fast lane tolls and all businesses must pay to be near the toll lane. All gas stations who do not pay the priority zoning are placed in the nearest outside zone, forcing consumers to drive several miles out of their way to get to those gas stations. Only partner gas stations may be placed near the highway for easy access. (breaking the example here basically saying back to the days of AOL tiered access where partner channels get very quick loads and non partner channels get stuck in loads that may take several minutes)

Only paid toll roads will get infrastructure improvements. All other roads will be maintained only at the current level with no increases in speed or support.

David says:

There are no fast lanes without slow lanes.

Once net neutrality is gone, will internet providers extend capacities such that people get the current bandwidth even when a number books into "fast lanes"?

Investments will then not mean additional costs but also less money: the more tolerable the new "slow lanes" are, the fewer people will pay for the fast lanes.

So it’s in the best interest of service providers to throttle standard plans until they become unbearably slow.

Naturally, this is easiest to do when you don’t extend overall network capacities: not today, and not tomorrow, and not the day after.

At some point of time, you can sell data plans for "super fast lanes", still without ever extending capacity.

There really is no wonder that the people up to their gills in the monopolists’ pockets invest all their oratory skills into making the populace believe being screwed over is in their best interests.

Chip says:

Once again, I TOLD YOU SO

A thread about net neutrality? It’s Chip’s time to shine!


I don’t remember what it is I’m supposed to have told you, exactly. But I definitely told you so. Why won’t you all acknowledge my genius? WHY? I just want to be loved!

Every Nation eatst the paint CHips it sDeserves!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s similar to what the labels and studios do.

When it comes time to whine to the government and try to get more laws passed in their favor piracy is absolutely destroying their industries, and they’re barely hanging on.

When it comes time to talk the investors and shareholders however business is booming, with record profits on a near yearly basis.

The message presented is based not upon the actual numbers but is instead dependent on who is being addressed.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: It seems to me

High QoS assurance for critical things must be completely conflated with double dipping, charging everyone far too much already, expanding or improving networks and POP and exchanges, or not, lighting the crapton of dark fiber already in existence or not, fighting with non-consumer providers or buying them, collusion, monopoly, refusing to abide by contracts and apply subsidies where they were meant to go for twenty to thirty-five years…

Don’t hurt consumers by making companies play fair even a teeny tiny widdiw bit. You some kind of communist?

Anonymous Coward says:

“But in reality what it involves is Internet regulation, and the basic question is, ‘Do you want the government deciding how the Internet is run?'”

Sigh…you can’t have a free market without government regulation. Otherwise you just get scam artists claiming to sell one thing but delivering another. Like when add-on fees add 20% to your internet bill.

Pai’s argument is a straw-man in it’s most basic form. There’s a huge gap between “government regulation” and “dictating how the internet is run”. Turn the article on its head. Sellers can’t force buyers to pay for products or services without the threat of government coercion to back it up. So the government is already dictating how the whole economy is run.

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh yes… government is always bad! I hate it when then tell honest businesses that the food, candy, drinking water, or medicine can only contain -this much mercury- or other stuff that is supposedly bad and will kill you. If people die then business is lost and it will pave the way for competitors.

Yes I know… the internet is not life or death. But would anyone doubt that without control these essential things, mentioned above, would be very unsafe to consume if there was money to be made? I don’t doubt that the ISP’s would put us upside-down to shake the last coins loose from our pockets either or would gladly destroy the most wonderful access to knowledge if it served their purpose.

Ajit Pai is so determined on destroying his own position and organization that it would almost be hilarious if it didn’t have such consequences. If anyone is doubting that he will get a cushy private sector job when he is done, they would have to think that he has gone crazy.

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