Large ISP & Silicon Valley CEOs Were Too Afraid To Publicly Testify On Net Neutrality

from the own-your-words dept

While ISP lobbyists are pushing the government to kill net neutrality protections, they’re also pushing hard for a new net neutrality law. Why? With our current historically-dysfunctional and cash-compromised Congress, large ISPs like AT&T and Comcast know that their lawyers and lobbyists will be the ones writing the law — if it gets passed at all. The end result will be a law ISPs will profess “puts the debate to bed,” but which contains so many loopholes as to be effectively meaningless when it comes to protecting consumers and competition.

As a cornerstone of this new push, lawmakers in July sent out invitations to CEOs of major tech companies and major ISPs for a September hearing to be held in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The meeting was, the invitation claimed, an opportunity for stakeholders (only apparently the wealthiest ones) to “rethink the current regulatory model and build new rules from the ground up” in Congress. Again, this is something ISPs have been lobbying for knowing it either won’t happen, or if it does will be so loophole-filled as to be worse than useless.

Amusingly, however, none of the invited CEOs from telecoms or Silicon Valley’s biggest, wealthiest companies were interested in testifying publicly at the hearing:

“Republican lawmakers had hoped to bring top executives from tech companies and internet providers to testify publicly in a bid to garner support for a deal to set permanent rules on the future of internet access after a more than decade-long fight. No company had publicly committed to testify and many firms were privately reluctant to testify.”

The reason for this should be fairly obvious. Large ISPs are perfectly happy to lie about their assault on popular consumer protections in viciously-misleading videos or disengenuous blog posts penned by a rotating crop of lawyers and lobbyists. But no CEO wants to directly own their company’s ugly, anti-consumer, anti-innovation, and anti-competitive positions personally in a public hearing, especially given the shady behavior at the FCC and the growing bipartisan public backlash to what Trump’s FCC is doing.

Similarly, Google and Facebook don’t want to highlight that they stopped supporting net neutrality in any meaningful fashion years ago, and in many parts of the world have repeatedly undermined the concept solely to corner developing nation ad revenues. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings doesn’t want to have to explain why the company’s support of net neutrality has waned proportionally to the company’s growing power, and no major Silicon Valley CEO wants to own the fact their apathy on this subject has left small and mid-sized companies, startups and consumers alone and under-funded as they fight to keep the internet a relatively level playing field.

But worry not! Lawmakers like Greg Walden were quick to make it clear that instead of publicly and transparently owning their inconsistent to downright anti-consumer positions, these large companies will continue to haggle out the details of a new law behind closed doors:

“Zach Hunter, a spokesman for the committee?s chairman, U.S. Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, said the hearing was postponed because of talks over the future rules. ?As negotiations progress on a permanent solution for net neutrality that ensures a free and open internet, the committee will postpone the original hearing in order to allow talks between stakeholders to continue,? he said.”

So as the FCC works to kill the rules currently on the books, the nation’s largest companies and cash-compromised lawmakers will be debating — without your input — how to replace these rules with the policy equivalent of wet cardboard. Throughout the fall you’re going to see countless ISP-prompted editorials popping up (like this one and this one and this one and this one…) insisting such a law is the best — or only — path forward. Be sure to note how these calls ignore what the public wants — and that the easiest path forward isn’t another new law, but to simply leave the existing, popular net neutrality protections alone.

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Comments on “Large ISP & Silicon Valley CEOs Were Too Afraid To Publicly Testify On Net Neutrality”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

They lie like others breathe.

“permanent solution”
– Heh, nothing is permanent and claiming it is shows a bit about who is talking.

“ensures a free and open internet”
– Yeah, like I will believe that.

“allow talks between stakeholders “
– I doubt the average person is included as a stakeholder. I appears they have been intentionally excluded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

take a lesson from all history.

People don’t give a shit. We are still going to vote in terrible presidents, while ignoring congress and play politics.

Corruption is not just welcome in politics, it is desired! Remember that the next time you approve of a politician doing something you agree with, but not following the law to accomplish it when getting it done!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for people to do nothing. Government tyranny and corruption is due to “citizens” doing NOTHING!

You bet they are bought and paid for, you just don’t realize that you are the sucker in the exchange. You sold your vote to the politician who sold it to the industry. Next election, you will making the “exact same mistake” along with the majority of others.


Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nah. Things are bad, but not as bad as all that. Public pressure defeated SOPA and the TPP. We’re also seeing major reform to marijuana policy. Even with a DoJ that’s champing at the bit to crack down on legal-in-the-states marijuana use, we’ve got a Congress that’s tied its hands and refused to fund that kind of enforcement.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Public opinion still matters, even if not as much as it should.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Minor successes, they just asked for too much at one time.

They will ask for less and less each time until something catches hold, and when it does… the rest will follow shortly after.

Neither of the 2 parties reflect their voters much, which is why they keep flip flopping in exchange of power. That flip flopping is going to result in a despotism anyways.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Funny how ‘the public’ is never considered a ‘stakeholder’ in talks like those/these.

It makes sense I suppose, I mean it’s not like the general public will be impacted by yet more retroactive changes to copyright law, or regulations/laws impacting the internet via the burdens(or lack thereof) they impose on the companies providing access.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The public is always a stakeholder, but they are proxied through various groups, including the FCC itself.

Since you can never actually have the entire public in any discussion, they will always be there by proxy. Even a “group representing users” would like be made up people from the 1.5% who posted comments to the FCC, which would not in any way represent the large population.

IMHO, the FCC is beyond their bounds in trying to impose net neutrality rules without the specific backing of the legislative branch. The rules of the FCC are suppose to be working interpretations of the laws on the books, the “how to” for what has been passed into law. There is no net neutrality law that I can find.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So the FCC represents me and all others as a proxy stakeholder during these discussions of “what are we allowed to do” … ummm ok.

And then you claim the FCC is going beyond their jurisdiction in their proxy stakeholder representation of everyone else.

Interesting. So I guess what you are claiming is that myself and everyone else do not deserve any representation in this matter because congress is unable to pull their heads out of their collective asses?

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