The FCC Tried To Hide Net Neutrality Complaints Against ISPs

from the nothing-to-see-here dept

When FCC boss Ajit Pai first proposed killing popular net neutrality protections (pdf), he insisted he would proceed “in a far more transparent way than the FCC did” when it first crafted the rules in 2015. That promise has proven to be a historically-hollow one.

Pai’s agency is already facing numerous lawsuits for refusing to disclose conversations with ISP lobbyists about the plan to kill net neutrality, refusing to disclose net neutrality complaints filed with the agency, refusing to be transparent about a DDoS attack the FCC apparently concocted to downplay the “John Oliver effect,” and for ignoring FOIA requests related to its failure to police website comment fraud during the public comment period.

You’ll recall that time and time again, Pai and friends have tried to claim that net neutrality isn’t a real problem, and that the harms created by letting giants like AT&T and Comcast run roughshod over an uncompetitive broadband sector are largely hallucinated. As such, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request back in May to obtain the 45,000 consumer net neutrality complaints filed since the rules took effect in 2015, arguing that they might just prove useful to the conversation given the FCC’s claim that net neutrality isn’t a real problem.

Initially the FCC spent much of this year stalling in the release of the complaints, insisting that making them public would be too “burdensome” for agency staff. After growing legal and public pressure, the FCC finally released upwards of 60,000 pages-worth of complaints by consumers who say their ISP behaved anti-competitively in violation net neutrality. But the agency is still refusing to include these complaints in the net neutrality proceeding docket, and refuses to include details on how ISPs responded to these complaints in the docket either:

“The FCC has not produced any additional documents since we filed an Application for Review [on November 14],” NHMC Special Policy Advisor Gloria Tristani told Ars today. Besides carrier responses, “we are missing other documents as well, such as attachments to consumer complaints, consumer rebuttals, etc.” The FCC has not explained why it didn’t provide those documents, according to the NHMC.”

Again, this appears to be par for the course for this FCC. It’s fairly clear by now the FCC refused to do anything about the fraud during the comment period because it believed that raising questions about the validity of the comment process would help downplay the massive public opposition to its plan. Similarly, refusing to include real consumer net neutrality complaints in the docket helps prop up Ajit Pai’s patently-false claim that net neutrality (which again, is just a symptom of a lack of competition in broadband) isn’t a real problem. It’s the same MO, repeated over and over and over again.

Needless to say, this entire process has been raising the hackles of fellow agency Commissioners that actually believe that the lack of competition in the broadband market is a real thing:

Other Commissioners have noted how the difficulty in getting this FCC to release these complaints is just one small part of an overall culture of dysfunction and non-transparency at Trump’s FCC. Pai’s fellow FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, for example, issued a statement (pdf) pointing out how between the NY’s investigation of fraudulent comments, the GAO’s investigation of the FCC’s alleged DDoS attack, and all the lawsuits already dogging the agency, the FCC should most assuredly slow its roll a little bit:

“Distressingly, the FCC has been unwilling to assist a law enforcement investigation into some of these problems. That?s unacceptable. The FCC needs to correct this course immediately. The integrity of our process is at stake. The future of the Internet is at stake. Until we get to the bottom of this, no vote should take place until a responsible investigation?like that in New York?is complete.”

Of course the FCC has absolutely zero intention of delaying its December 14 vote to kill net neutrality, because that’s precisely what it promised giant ISPs they’d do. And, after all, failing to live up to your promise to sector lobbyists might just indicate an overall lack of integrity at the current FCC, and we certainly wouldn’t want that.

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Comments on “The FCC Tried To Hide Net Neutrality Complaints Against ISPs”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“What amazes me is how all this shady, blatantly illegal behavior is being conducted in plain sight and it seems nothing is happening.”

This is hardly amazing, the government has been conducting shady and blatantly illegal behavior in plain sight for a long time without nothing happening.

I noticed the corruption and illegal activity before I graduated from grade school.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I was just commenting that what he finds amazing I found to be easily discovered and common place.

Your intellectually dissonant conclusion is pretty telling of why a democracy would never work.

Or as Winston Churhill said…
“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

YOU are “that” voter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

True, but given that we’re witnessing the most corrupt administration in US history, it’s not really surprising. It’s actually rather easy to explain their every action if you realize that the goal is to (a) loot and (b) run.

Pai is no exception to this. He’s been well-paid. He IS being well-paid. He will be well-paid. His focus isn’t on weighing the merits, or listening to the public, or considering what policies would be best for the country: it’s on getting paid. And he will do anything and say anything to make that happen.

If Congress had any teeth — which it doesn’t — then it would subpoena him, put him under oath, and force him to testify in open session. It would also subpoena all the documents/records involved in this process and perform its own investigation as well as sharing them with the NYAG.

But of course that won’t happen. And this will have to be litigated by public interest groups and private citizens. Meanwhile, Pai will be long gone, since his bribes and payoffs will be waiting for him back at Verizon or Comcast or Charter or AT&T or wherever he goes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The FCC is provenly skirting the line of legality quite significantly. However, I haven’t seen the piece of evidence that could evict someone. Corruption is notoriously hard to find evidence of if the people doing it are normal intelligence+ and the period is limited…

That is why calling “corruption” or illegal activity too strongly is best avoided since “slander” is easier to prove (though if he really is guilty, he would never want to go there!).

Pai is feeding a lot of ammunition to the lenght of a potential hold from the legal side. Problem is that the legally meritous arguments for removing NN are held back by Pai, probably in expectation of the heavy legal fights and the general controversy that will surface. Remember that Pai is an anti-trust lawyer and knows how to manipulate a judge: As long as he can prove that the opposing side in the lawsuits lacks the evidence needed for a temporary hold, the legislation will be in effect untill he can’t stall the courts any longer. If there is anything a lawyer with business-experience knows, it is how to run up the costs (To soften the economy of opposition. No need to win if your adversary lose!) and stall!

Andy says:

Re: Re:

What is amazing to me is that congress is totally ignoring this , except for a few democrats, I think it is time to play the republican at there own game and the next time democrats have enough power to get a bill to the president do so, Enacting irreversible laws that ensure real net neutrality and not the sham that pai is wanting to pass making the FCC completely impartial and all members unable to accept any bribes or donations as they are called, also that no member of the FCC may work in the industries they rule over for the rest of there lives ..or 25 years after they leave the FCC.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, it would be scary if laws could be “irreversible”. Imagine the kind of nonsense that WOULD wind up being enacted.

I’m kinda torn on the other issue – if you forbid government employees from going to a related field after they “retire”, you’ll only wind up with people who know NOTHING about the field in the positions. You need people with some expertise, but you need some way to prevent them from selling that expertise to the highest bidder.

What might be better is not a ban on working in the same field, but rather a mandatory investigation on quitting/retirement by an independent investigator. Depending on how you did your job, you can go get a job in the field, or go straight to prison. This should be mandatory for ALL government jobs. The higher the position, the more scrutiny upon leaving the position, with the President getting the most scrutiny upon completion of his term(s).

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You only have to look at Obamacare to understand how much the difference between agency regulations and laws and their durability.

The Republicans have spent almost every second since Obamacare was passed trying to get rid of it. It has taken all the way until the last week for them to have any success in making a change, and that has been through the nasty concept of “defunding”.

What really needs to happen is that Congress needs to pass law that would create “Title Internet” (whatever number they would be up to) that directly addresses the concept of the internet, ISPs, and the like.

Otherwise, the FCC and it’s partisan leadership will forever flap back and forth on issues like NN.

ThatFatMan (profile) says:

Pai is clearly against anything that relates to NN, aside from it’s full repeal. We’ve heard this numerous times. But there is more to this story.

What I haven’t heard much of, or any of, is that there are 5 members who will vote. The original vote in 2015 was, as I recall, 3-2 in favor of the current rules. We know Wheeler left and Pai stayed. I’m not sure about other changes, but what is the feeling from the other 4 members on which way they might vote? Fortunately for us, Pai isn’t a one-man show even though he’s grabbing all the attention. (Unless I’m wrong?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It was voted in partisan and will be voted out partisan. The only change is that there has been a paint-job in the White House and the chosen members of FCC are 3 of the presidents partisans and 2 of the opposition partys. Majority rules!

FCC has been relatively bipartisan historically. But that has changed a lot in the last decade after the courts have started pushing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

O’Rielly wrote a famous Op-Ed with Ted Cruz about how it was crucial to beat down states wanting to revive anything similar to NN. He is as bad as Pai, if not worse. Historically he has been a lifelong republican economist, advisor and whip.

Carr is a former lawyer for the telecom industry from 2005-2012 updating them and filing cases for them on anything related to FCC. He was recruited as adviser by Pai and has been jumping around a bit before ending as an FCC commissioner. While Carr has been the least extreme in the debate, there is no doubt of where his loyalty lies.

Clyburn has come out with tons of examples she finds would be hurt by repealing NN. She has also called Pais leadership “worse than I feared!”. She is a lifelong politician for the democrats and too deep in the trenches to budge.

Rosenworcel has not only been critical about repealing NN, but has burned Pai on the way he has handled the process. She has been cooperating with Eric Schneiderman. Being from the public side of the telecom cases through the nineties and foreward as a lawyer and a former aide of Michael Copps, it is to be expected that she will be a very staunch protector of NN.

It doesn’t matter much how they individually feel. Most of them are zealots and deeply entrenched in their policies. Pai has merely make it go from smoke to open fire in the FCC. Today they can’t cooperate for beep.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ajit Pai’s makes many arguments that could be seen as serving the interests of the industry, but what has he ever said about protecting the rights of the public? Isn’t that supposedly the reason why the FCC even exists?

While it looks like ISP meddling tactics like the creation of “fast lanes” will have the seal of approval from the FCC, what about consumer privacy concerns? Is Ajit Pai unaware of controversial ISP shenanigans like deep packet inspection and data mining, and what about future abuses such as the marketing of ISP-sniffed internet data? Will ISPs follow the “FaceBook model” and sniff, collect, collate, and sell to the highest bidder all kinds of information going through its pipes?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

He’s not unaware, he just doesn’t care because that wouldn’t help his ISP friends.

There were privacy protections in the current rules but Congress passed a law back in March that rolled them back and made it so the FCC could never implement privacy protections like that again. Pai proceeded to post celebratory messages after that praising what an awesome thing it was.

The only way to get them back now is if Congress passes another law undoing what they…undid.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Damn right, I mean really, what’s the point of calling them out on stuff, people should just realize that corruption exists and stop bothering people by writing articles(with the magic coding of course) highlighting specific examples of it.

Corruption exists, it’s a total waste of time pointing to specific examples of it when that time could instead be spent pointing to things that aren’t regular occurrences and/or stuff that isn’t absolutely impossible to change.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I imagine you got a few down-votes for that from newbies who don’t know you. You really need the sarcasm tags for posts like this for those people. We know you’re being sarcastic as we long-timers know you well, but others won’t understand why such a post got voted funny instead of being hidden.

Anywho, keep up the awesome posts. I nearly always upvote every one of your posts, either funny or insightful as the case may be.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Such is the problem with sarcasm, the crazier things get the easier it is to create a poe where people unfamiliar with a particular person’s writing style struggle to figure out if they’re being serious or sarcastic.

I was tempted to slip in an ‘/s, just in case you thought for a moment I was actually agreeing with you’, but ultimately decided that I probably didn’t need to, as while some might think I was being serious I imagine most will be able to understand that I was going for sarcasm.

Firehawk1927 says:

Putting aside the obvious news everyone knows about, what is Ajit-Big-Nose-Pai doing? He honestly thinks that we are stupid. It is a little ironic, because the guy is probably using the Internet to talk back and forth between the idiotic senators of our government about ending Net Neutrality. “I have don’t really have any reasons or evidence to shut down everyone’s rights on the Internet, I’ll just give the excuse that ISP’s aren’t getting payed enough money as it is”. WHAT!? Do you KNOW how many people on this planet actually pay for data? At least 5 BILLION people! I swear, that bill is probably going to pass and when it d—ERROR: Please pay for the 50$ premium package to finish reading this comment.-Sincerly, Ajit Pai, your new dictator.

Daydream says:

Can I say something stupid?

There was this huge hubbub about the Russians influencing the 2016 election, and something something that’s why we have Donald Trump.

I wonder; with this whole anti-net-neutrality thing that Comcast and AT&T and whatnot have going on, trying to enrich themselves at everyone else’s expense…might they be in Russian pockets too?

Maybe it’s worth getting an audit of these companies’ finances to make sure they’re using their money responsibly? And that they’re not committing treason by collaborating with foreign governments to sabotage the US economy?

Anonymous Coward says:

Net Neutrality

Pai is a muslim and should not even be there! because all muslims were banned from usa in 1952 and it is treasonous that he got this govt. job. Traitor Pai has done in spite of
the whole country opposing his threats and lies too kill Net Neutrality! This has also shown the American people Dictator Drumph/Trump’s true colors, because Trump was the person who appointed him as head of the FCC!

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