EFF, Others Think It Would Be Cool If The FCC Stopped Hiding 47,000 Net Neutrality Complaints

from the there's-no-problem-if-you-can't-see-it dept

We’ve noted repeatedly that the Trump FCC has been engaged in some dubious-if-not-downright-comical behavior to try and justify their plan to kill popular net neutrality protections. These efforts have ranged from ignoring bot-driven fraudulent abuse of the agency’s comment system to allegedly making up a DDos attack to try and downplay the “John Oliver” effect in the media, after Oliver highlighted the myopia of the FCC’s efforts on his HBO program. The goal appears singular: sow doubt about the validity of the 20 million + comments made to the FCC, mostly in opposition to its plan.

FCC boss Ajit Pai has long insisted that net neutrality isn’t a real problem, nor is the lack of broadband competition that creates such market dysfunction in the first place. As such, the agency under his leadership has also been fighting against FOIA requests to release the 47,000 net neutrality complaints filed with the agency since 2015. After all, they might show that net neutrality is a real problem, undermining Pai’s claim that consumer protections on this front aren’t necessary.

Hoping to dial up pressure on the agency, 16 consumer groups and organizations (including the EFF and the ACLU) penned a letter to the FCC this week urging them to make the complaints public. The core of their argument — if the FCC is going to claim net neutrality protections and agency oversight of ISPs is largely unnecessary, it might be useful to discuss what the public has to say about things:

Over 47,000 consumer complaints have been submitted against ISPs since June 2015, and carriers provided approximately 18,000 responses to those complaints, and there are 1,500 emails documenting interactions between the ombudsperson and Internet users. These numbers alone should give the Commission pause. However, only a full analysis of these consumer complaints and ombudsperson documents will allow the public to fully answer questions posed in the NPRM.

Of course a full, transparent analysis of the record is the very last thing Pai and friends want, since it would clearly show the agency is ignoring the public interest to the sole benefit of a handful of well-loathed telecom duopolies. That said, the groups are quick to point out that Pai’s failure to address, analyze, and release all these documents for review and comment prior to the close of the current comment deadline (which is August 30 if you haven’t chimed in yet) could result in the FCC running afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act.

So while the FCC had originally claimed that releasing these comments would be too “burdensome,” it has quickly shifted its position to now claim that the agency will release the complaints eventually, once they’re redacted. Maybe:

“Pursuant to FOIA, the FCC must redact any personal information from the over 47,000 documents that have been requested before they can be released,” a spokesperson for Pai told Ars today. “Currently, commission staffers are in the process of reviewing these documents and redacting any personal information. We anticipate releasing another batch of documents by the end of the week and will release the remainder as soon as we can.”

Whether or not “as soon as we can” will be defined as “after we’ve finalized a vote to kill the popular rules later this year” remains to be seen.

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Comments on “EFF, Others Think It Would Be Cool If The FCC Stopped Hiding 47,000 Net Neutrality Complaints”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Your daily dose of...

“I told you so…”

You will not win! The best you are ever going to get is the illusion of NN. Verizon is still going to throttle, mergers are still going to happen, incumbent ISP’s are still going to use the money you gave them to buy your “local and federal” elected officials and their regulations/regulators along with using the courts to block competitors from giving you any real choice in the market.

You are giving your money to the enemy and begging for relief from one of their bought and paid for shills! You are going to choose from the choices they give you, and like it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Your daily dose of...

You know what?

I hope I turn out to be wrong and it does go your way, but based on everything I have seen, I see little chance of that actually happening.

I know that the pro regulation crowd means well, the problem is that they have no choice but to work through the political crowd that does not mean well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Your daily dose of...

Many solutions have already been given and by many people.

But it does not stop folks like you from driving by and continuously lying about people not giving solutions.

You don’t pay attention and you only have one response in your arsenal, no wonder you are bored. Next time listen and you might gasp learn!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Your daily dose of...

LOL. I thnk this is the fourth time in a couple of month a person has defended “many solutions have been given”, without engaging it and turning to ad hominem like:

“But it does not stop folks like you from driving by and continuously lying about people not giving solutions.”

You may be marking a partyline, but you are surely not engaging in anything factual. Get in on the discussion with some of the solutions if you want to be taken serious. Party drivel is empty rhetoric. Don’t be that guy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Your daily dose of...

How about you folks “don’t be that guy?”

I have told you many times already, along with OTHERS!!!
Back off the regulation of the ISP’s themselves.
Place public infrastructure under regulation, meaning the lines and poles are regulated like the highways.
Last mile is owned by property owners NOT The ISP or Gov.
Tell the FTC to enforce advertising laws for a fucking change.
No allowing ISP’s to say “unlimited” with micro-print stating that it is clearly not limited.
Require ISP to state a average minimum guaranteed speed.

Next up, some sunovabitch will be right back around to tell me that I never offered a fucking solution.

The usual argument for regulation is that everyone is deathly afraid of getting a monopoly inside of a capitalist free market!

What did the FCC do, when they were created?

Immediately established AND PUBLISHED the idea that they would regulate telco’s AS NATURAL MONOPOLIES! The only things that your calls for regulation are doing is getting what you have been trying to avoid! Get a clue finally!

The map is literally carved up of little monopoly fiefdoms all over the place. Most people do not have a choice of which ISP they can have if they want broadband! They can screw you repeatedly with “billing errors” in their favor and “cramming” while your “Precious Regulators” act like NOTHING is going on. It’s the damn fuck the customers Olympics out there and the government is in the stands cheering like a bunch of bitches as we consumers get screwed in new and exciting ways!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Your daily dose of...

First off, I agree, something needs to be done about who owns the last mile and who is allowed to use it.

However, the rest of your logic is illogical.

First you say de-regulate the ISP’s themselves, then in the next paragraph you call for regulating the ISP’s.

You say that regulation has made our current landscape of ISP monopolies the way it is yet ignore the fact that because of a lack of regulation, telco’s have been allowed to merge into giant corporations that have thrown their weight around to prevent additional competition.

Requiring ISP’s to just pass traffic without respect to where it comes from or what it contains is just common sense. The way it is now (with very little regulation) ISP’s can prioritize traffic however they want to squeeze out any competing services they don’t like or charge customers more to do basic things like watch Netflix.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Your daily dose of...

He’s the guy whose “solution” is to be born a complete asshole, be surrounded by friends willing to overlook his shortcomings, and that will allow you to live comfortably without ever graduating high school.

His solution is nothing more but a dependency on dumb luck and the grace of others willing to support his lifestyle. You don’t have to be intelligent or aware to figure out how to live like a leech.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Your daily dose of...

Thank you. I respect the constructive suggestions. I think we are many that find it a bit close to mixed signals when your solutions would require more enforcement (by FTC) of stricter regulation (Public utility regulation).

Almost everybody wants the infrastructure regulated. The question is if that wouldn’t normally be seen as regulatory overreach from politicians and in reality such regulation is exactly why FCC was created historically before it became the figurehead for talking money cleptocracy.

FTC enforcing laws has already been almost completely abandoned by FTC since they see FCC as the rightful place to make such enforcement and clearly states that they feel uncomfortable with getting such technical job. Thus the thing to do for now is pressuring FCC to do exactly what is needed. Removing FCC would likely not move us any closer to your stated goals, but rather abandon any chance of infrastructure regulation of poles ever happening!

There is a conundrum of spending: The less government politicians want, the less they are willing to spend on enforcing laws, which is actually 180 the wrong way to achieve it. You need better enforcement of laws to make it easier to spot bad/unneeded laws as well as hidden pork!

Annonymouse (profile) says:

Re: Paude

Except you forgot the multiplier effect.
Gor every complaint that actually makes it through there will be 99 that didn’t bother due to apathy… add in some hurdles or just not record verbal or over the phone complaints and that number gets another significant figure.
So now it’s 0.5% or more likely 5% which is pretty much what George Washington and crew had when they started thier little adventure.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Paude

Not really. The problem is that you’re assuming that anyone that didn’t file a report to a government agency complaining about the service they are getting likes said service or are getting good service, when it’s much more likely that most of them consider it too much hassle for what’s likely to be almost no gain.

There’s a much wider range of possible categories beyond ‘actively disliking a company/service enough that you file an official complaint to a government agency’ and ‘liking the company/service you have’, such that just because someone doesn’t fall into the first category it’s not really a safe assumption to put them into the second.

Rocky says:

These aren't...

EFF: Let me see the DDOS logs.
Ajit Pai: [with a small wave of his hand] You don’t need to see the DDOS logs.
EFF: We don’t need to see the DDOS logs.
Ajit Pai: These aren’t the comments you’re looking for.
EFF: These aren’t the comments we’re looking for.
Ajit Pai: You can go about your business.
EFF: You can go about your business.
Ajit Pai: Move along.
EFF: Move along… move along…

DONT BE STUPID BE EDUCATED says:

Hrm

ya know what , let them have non net neutrality and where you get caps jsut dont use the net no more….where they are over priced just dont pay for it…

thats the goal anyhow no matter what any of you think and its better to get off this technow and get to putting your bucks to places people and things that are not evil….

It happened massively in canada and they back tracked…losing nearly 30% of your userbase in a year was a huge loss so they tried to up pricing to help and all that did was create more losses…

HEY DIPSHITS IN CORPORATIONS IF THE PRICE IS TOO HIGH PEOPLE CANT AFFORD IT…AND IF THEY CANT DO NOTHING WITH IT THEY WONT PAY FOR IT….

When this started in canada out of 33 million people we had 24 million user accounts, 2 years later it was 14 million

nearing a 50% drop ….imagine losing 50% of your business….in short order….

you yankies however dont seem to have the balls to just turn off and wait for a few years….we did and now we got all kinds a nice rules as they bent over basically.

there are capped accounts and not and teksavvy my isp just lowered my monthly …when was last time you had a isp do that and it was cause of CRTC ruling that lowered prices

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hrm

Reality check, a few years ago, before you needed to have an internet connection to submit job applications, do work, turn in homework, etc… that may have been viable. However, now the internet is a necessity for most functions of daily life, you can’t just say “Oh I’m going to not use the internet until we get better prices in 5 years”. And switching to a different provider isn’t an option either as it has been stated many times, most Americans only have one viable ISP option.

Anonymous Coward says:

A Strongly Worded Letter

That’ll learn ’em. Nothing gets through to a group ignoring people’s request like a new request. Coming up next: More people touch fire after first batch of people unable to extinguish fire using their hands.

I don’t know a lot about FOIA requests but it seems like there’s very little reason for the FCC to comply in a timely manner. Worst case scenario they throw some intern under the bus if someone files a lawsuit against them.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Redaction

Why in hell does the FCC think that public comments need redaction before release? That which they are hiding will come out, eventually. The only thing they are delaying is their embarrassment, or maybe they don’t feel embarrassment as they are protected by the piles of money they are sitting in. Or maybe they think their version of doublespeak will confound their critics.

Anonymous Coward says:

You're again merely re-writing Arse Technica.

If others weren’t making content first, you’d be wordless.

You could mention Arse briefly, then state your position and argue it. All you do is kibbitz and snipe with cheap innuendo. I don’t even know what you want. Give me bullet-points. But I bet your position is “whatever Google wants”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You're again merely re-writing Arse Technica.

Are you also going to complain that ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, etc… are just copying each other? Just because multiple news outlets report the same news with similar viewpoints, doesn’t mean they are copying someone else, it just means they found the story newsworthy and happen to hold similar views.

Some people on Techdirt probably don’t read Ars Technica so for them this is the first time they are seeing it.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Tom Wheeler didn't release these comments

The fake net neutrality complaints were mostly made while his holiness Tom Wheeler was head of the FCC.

Why didn’t he release them?

Could it be that they’re about as well thought-out as the typical blog comment? I suspect the release of these comments will embarrass the pro-regulation lobby, if that’s possible.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: ... what.

You really think Pai is stonewalling the release of comments that would help his position if made public? How does that even begin to make sense?

Keep in mind we’re talking about the guy that took a break during the ‘Sunshine period’ when the FCC was supposedly considering the public comments and facts presented to them to make a video reading ‘mean’ tweets sent his way, so the idea that he would hesitate to release complaints that would make the people who disagree with him look foolish is a little hard to buy.

Also, if you’re going to say that they’re fake you’re going to need to back that up with some evidence, not simply assert it.

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