Cable Lobbyists Try To Scuttle State Inquiries Into Shitty Broadband Service, Slow Speeds

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

Whether it’s rolling back already agreed upon merger conditions, killing net neutrality, or eliminating broadband privacy protections, giant ISP lobbyists are having a field day under the Trump administration, slowly but surely stripping away oversight of one of the least competitive — and most anti-competitive — sectors in American industry. We’ve noted repeatedly that as giant cable providers like Comcast nab an ever larger monopoly over next-gen broadband services, the end result of this myopic pursuit will be even higher rates — and even worse customer service — for everyone.

But there’s a problem in this quest to create a new, golden era of telecom sector monopoly dysfunction: individual states.

In the wake of the attack on the FCC privacy rules, more than a dozen states have rushed to enact new privacy protections for consumers, requiring that ISPs are very clear about what data they’re collecting and who they’re selling it to. And in the wake of federal apathy to consumer complaints about some of the worst customer service in any industry, individual states have also started pushing back, as evidenced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s lawsuit against Charter Communications for advertising speeds company execs knew they couldn’t deliver.

Ironically, cable lobbyists (and the politicians, sock puppets, think tankers and policy wonks paid to love them) have quickly rushed to defend “states’ rights!” when it comes to giant ISPs’ ability to write protectionist state laws that hamper broadband competition. But now that several states are actually passing legislation that might help consumers, the broadband industry and current FCC have launched a concerted effort to keep states from meddling in their attempts to build utterly-unaccountable media, advertising, broadband and television conglomerates.

Case in point: the FCC is already making noise about their plans to somehow prevent states from passing consumer broadband privacy laws. And last week, cable industry lobbyists began petitioning the FCC in the hopes of making it much more difficult for states to investigate claims of substandard broadband service and speeds, allowing them to hide behind the “up to” marketing language most of us are familiar with:

“NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom, lobby groups for the cable and telecom industries, last month petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a declaratory ruling that would help ISPs defend themselves against state-level investigations. The FCC should declare that advertisements of speeds “up to” a certain level of megabits per second are consistent with federal law as long as ISPs meet their disclosure obligations under the net neutrality rules, the groups said. There should be a national standard enforced by the FCC instead of a state-by-state “patchwork of inconsistent requirements,” they argue.

While there are valid concerns that individual state requirements could make life more complicated for large ISPs, ignored by the NCTA is the fact that their efforts to gut meaningful federal oversight of telecom providers is the primary reason that’s happening in the first place. And a bipartisan filing by 34 state attorneys general (pdf) points out that this effort has nothing to do with wanting to avoid “inconsistent requirements,” and everything to do with wanting to dodge accountability for poor service on both the state and federal level:

“[I]t appears that the petition is really seeking to alter disclosure obligations under state law, including state consumer protection laws? prohibitions on false and misleading statements and material omissions in consumer-facing advertisements,” they wrote. “Such a ruling would plainly exceed the scope of the Commission?s authority granted by Congress, and would be improper.” There is also “no factual basis” to determine that ISPs’ speed disclosures meet the FCC’s “just and reasonable” standard, they argued. “The request is plainly seeking a factual finding, despite the complete lack of any factual record to support such a conclusion,” they wrote.”

It’s worth reiterating: when states have come under fire for letting ISP lobbyists directly write horrible protectionist legislation that hamstrings local community rights and hinders broadband competition, cable lobbyists are quick to rush to the defense of state rights. When those states actually try to hold these same broadband providers accountable for substandard service courtesy of a lack of competition, it’s suddenly all a bridge too far. Meanwhile, those that still believe that blindly deregulating the telecom market will somehow magically make Comcast behave, are in for a nasty surprise over the next decade.

Again, deregulation can help competitive markets thrive. But the telecom sector, as we’ve long illustrated, is neither competitive nor that simple. In fact, earlier efforts to blindly deregulate an uncompetitive, utterly-dysfunctional, taxpayer-subsidized broadband industry is the precise reason most of you are currently stuck on hold with Comcast in the first place. And the sooner we collectively realize that giving some of the least ethical companies in America carte blanche doesn’t magically result in connectivity Utopia, the sooner the quest for cheaper, better, and more broadly-available broadband will be fulfilled.

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Comments on “Cable Lobbyists Try To Scuttle State Inquiries Into Shitty Broadband Service, Slow Speeds”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Consistency in corruption

States passing laws to cripple if not outright eliminate local competition = States rights, absolutely fine.

States trying to pass laws to ensure that broadband companies can’t lie through their teeth and advertise something they won’t/can’t deliver = Terrible, absolutely not acceptable.

Pretty easy to see through the PR and glimpse the underlying idea about what ‘rights’ they think states should be able to hold, and which can be summed up as simply ‘States have whatever rights will allow us to make the most profits, and should be free to pass whatever laws will best serve that purpose.’

While I’ve no doubt whatsoever that the argument of the lobbyists will get a warm welcome with the current FCC hopefully the courts will nicely shut down their latest attempt to screw over the public if the FCC tries to back them up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Consistency in corruption

The people side with their parties regardless of corruption.
Both parties side with business against the people.
The courts side with government way more often than not.
The States usually roll over against the Feds.

Yep, I don’t see a change coming any time soon because of the first problem I mentioned.

It all starts with us, the voters. We have to stop playing that D or R game and do something else. Even if we get a SHIT candidate in for a while we need to set a message that this piece of shit is better than YOUR piece of shit. Once the first time a non major party candidate wins an election it will open the floods gates for a lot of independents that would not run because of our 2 party sycophancy in the US.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Consistency in corruption

To be fair the two-party system has resulted in a Kang and Kodos situation that the AC is complaining about. Bearing in mind the first past the post electoral system in America, it’s hard, but not impossible, to get a third party candidate into office, it just takes a lot of work.

If you’re going to break the two-party lock you’re going to have to get behind a third party candidate in sufficient numbers to propel that candidate into power. Maybe then, as the AC has said, you will see change.

AC never said both parties are equally bad, just that they’re bad, which is true. We have the same problem over here with Labour and the Tories. If a third party could break through we’d see change but they can’t get the numbers in our own first past the post electoral system.

Does that make sense? We don’t have to take this lying down but we will have to get up and do something if we want to see change.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Consistency in corruption

They don’t care about the facts, just the ways they can twist what I said to imply something else instead. See it on both sides, but I honestly am treated far more negatively from leftists on it.

You are correct about the intent to break the two party lock that is on the system right now. I follow President George Washington’s idea behind the over reliance on Parties to speak for people politically. The dominance of one party over the other, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, will result in a despotism.

A lot of republicans I know felt that way with Obama and now a log of democrats feel that way about Trump. I do not think they understand that they are unwittingly helping build the stage for their own demise.

I would say that we need to break the first past the post election process but only for Congress. I think we are ignoring that branch of government far too much. People are too concerned with the actions that Obama and Trump take. They are too busy looking at the action in the distance through binoculars while ignoring the action going on in their own back yards. This article is a perfect example of that. Focus is on the FCC, but their states and cities are more than willing to put their asses up int he air for big business while pissing right on the little guys that voted them in.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Consistency in corruption

No, you just keep beating the same damn drum, which is fine, but you keep addressing people like they don’t fucking already know, and only you, the enlightened one, can save everyone else. You remind me of the airhead “wake up, America” advertising character.

It’s nice to identify with the protagonist of your video games, innit? But quit trying to tell everyone what “team” they were or are on. Any small kernels of truth which you have, which again, most here realized long ago, maybe even before coming here, are overshadowed by the bulk of your transactions here, which is the unnecessary utter trash which detracts from conversation and any point you may actually have. Or maybe your whole game is really centered on being a jackass and any good points are merely accidental.

William Braunfeld (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Consistency in corruption

We don’t need to get a third party candidate into office to influence the two we have, though. If enough of us vote third party we will push the main parties in the direction we want by forcing them to scramble to get our votes back. I recall again statements that Bernie Sanders pushed the Democrats further left simply by being as popular as he was; if we vote in line with our principles, we may not get the candidate we want, but we can force other candidates to adapt their views to cater to us.
We tend to forget the power we actually have in our system, generally because of the fear of the “other side.”

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Consistency in corruption

free trade??
Corporate governance..
Share holder governance??

I LOVE all the word you can use to describe what is happening..
I just ask, HOW much are they PAYING lobbyists to PAY WHOEVER, to get a Free share..and PASS THE CHARGES ON TO THE CUSTOMER..

I wonder IF; I can get my little Town to in corporate and get Every person to JOIN IN…and get CHEAPER FOOD, CHEAPER EVERYTHING… ANd CHARGE THE STATE FOR IT..

Anonymous Coward says:

( “… lobbyists are having a field day under the Trump administration..” )

Oh yes, and state/federal lobbying was virtually unheard of under the Obama or any Democrat administration.

5 biggest spenders in federal lobbying last year, in descending order, were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Realtors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the American Hospital Association and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America.

Rounding out the top 10 were the American Medical Association, Boeing, the National Association of Broadcasters, AT&T and Business Roundtable.

Influencing the government is a multi-billion-dollar business, with companies and trade associations hiring lobbyists and attorneys to push their agenda and shape government rules. Of course, government politicians & bureaucrats (especially Democrats) are all noble public servant– immune to special interest lobbying.

FCC lobbying is trivial on the overall lobbying scale.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Lobbyist Tom Wheeler

Tom Wheeler, previous FCC boss and Democrat … beloved by leftists as the champion of Net Neutrality & super-regulation– was in fact a star lobbyist for the cable TV industry during its most formative years when that government backed cartel originated. Wheeler was even inducted into the Cable Industry Hall of Fame

When President Obama made Wheeler FCC chairman in 2013, a top cable trade group called the selection “an exceptional choice,” while some critics worried the nation’s top telecommunications regulator would be too friendly to his former employers.

Apparently the Obama magic somehow transformed “evil” lobbyist Wheeler into a selfless man of the people (?)
Or perhaps Wheeler merely sold his political skills to a different buyer.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Profanity in the headline?

I don’t see any profanity; just some vulgarity.

Profanity is about matters religious; obscenity is about matters sexual; vulgarity is about bodily functions, i.e., mostly matters scatological.

Very few forms of foul language fall outside of those three categories; about the only examples I can think of are “bastard”, “bloody”, and arguably “bitch”.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

‘as long as ISPs meet their disclosure obligations under the net neutrality rules’

What net neutrality rules?
Didn’t they pay enough to get them removed?

A simple change in marketing requirements would make them freak out.
A guaranteed MIN speed.
Saying UP TO is like saying any child can grow up to be President, sounds good on paper… looking at the current state of the world it ends poorly. We can only have 1 president at a time, 10,000 kids can’t all be president.

I dunno the numbers but I bet Karl knows them…
Where do we rank in average speeds around the world & where so we rank in what we pay.

Want to cause a few strokes, just contact your congresscritters and wonder why we aren’t first in speeds but we are firsts in costs. When less developed nations have better speeds at way less prices, there should be some questions about why we have to protect billion dollar companies from questions about why they are screwing Americans.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Want to cause a few strokes

We gave them a few billion dollars to offset wiring the country… they took the money & didn’t finish it all.
We are still paying into the fund as they are trying to get out of copper line service for phones by letting them rot. They have the rules changed in several states so they can exit POTS when subscriber numbers drop low enough… magically these horrible hard to maintain lines can suddenly provide connections to the super duper fiber network, so 1 division sells the lines for a song, writes off the loss and the other division writes off having to repair and aging system.

You can get gigabit in ATL, for several thousand dollars a month when you find a 3rd party who can put in the fiber. Of course other companies might be scared into offering the service, but they won’t be that competitive, offer a cap you can kill in 45 minutes, and charge you more if you opt to not allow them to sell off your browsing habits.

Perhaps we should have never sold the spectrum for 5G, and turned it into national internet access.

Vidiot (profile) says:

"Let states decide..." unless that's inconvenient

HHS Secretary Tom Price: “States should decide” whether vaccinations/immunizations are required.

Sean Spicer: Trump feels transgender rights “… is a states’ rights issue.”

Betsy DeVos: Carry guns in schools? “I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide.” Also whether schools can allow discrimination against LGBT folks.

Then why is Ajit Pai, the Great Deregulator, seeking Federal regulatory legislation to deny states the right to control privacy and measure performance? What happened to all the “bureaucratic overreach” and “anti-competitive” rhetoric?

Looks like the AT&T/Charter lobbyists need to pack up their legislation-writing tools and get out of Tennessee; that legislature has already been bought. Get a cool motorhome, and start a 50-state road trip to enact identical, non-Federal-seeming regulations to enshrine the Pai agenda. Just like states’ rights, only better!

Avantare says:

Federal vs State

Remember when the feds told the states they were required to name a street in every(?) city after MLK?
AZ told the feds no.

The feds reply was no problem, no federal highway funds for you until you do.
Guess what AZ did?

This will get interesting. Probably in a bad way for the consumer however.

The Constitution of the United States of America provides for the superiority of federal government over the state governments in matters related to the national defense, monetary and currency, and the conduct of international relations. Federal law governs issues such as legislation by the US Congress, executive orders of the US President, as well as the decisions taken by the federal courts that also serve as the interpretation of the US Constitution. It should pertinent to note that the Supreme Court of the United States enjoys the status of final arbiter of federal law (Bohm & Walker, 2006).

On the other hand, state laws are the laws and regulations that govern different maters in each separate state. The state legislative authorities pass those laws, which are then signed by the governor of that state. State laws exits and operate in conjunction with or, sometimes, in a quite opposite to federal law (Hall & Clark, 2002).

In the event of any conflict between the federal and state law, the verdict of federal courts is sought to resolve the conflict. This paper aims at discussing differences and similarities of federal and state government as it pertains to their role in the implementation of criminal justice policy.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Federal vs State

Remember when the feds told the states they were required to name a street in every(?) city after MLK? AZ told the feds no.

The feds reply was no problem, no federal highway funds for you until you do. Guess what AZ did?

I’m…not aware of that happening. Do you have a source?

Because it sounds to me like you’re conflating the feds’ tying highway funding to the drinking age with the boycotts over Arizona’s refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Day as a holiday.

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