FCC Boss Claims Net Neutrality Hurts Small ISPs, But The FCC's Own Data Proves Otherwise

from the fluff-and-nonsense dept

By now we’ve noted countless times how the claim that net neutrality hurt broadband investment is indisputably false. It’s not a debate. Public SEC filings, earnings reports, and numerous CEO statements to investors (who, unlike you, they’re legally not allowed to lie to) have disproven this canard. Data suggesting otherwise usually originates with ISP-paid economists more than willing to twist, distort, cherry pick and massage the numbers until they comply with whatever message is being shoveled toward the media this week.

Despite the “net neutrality-killed investment” claim being decidedly false, it never appears to die. ISPs and FCC boss Ajit Pai continue to desperately cling to this claim as if repetition forges reality itself. The claim has played a starring role in nearly every speech Pai has given on this subject, as well as every press release that has been issued by the FCC. The claim popped up yet again recently, when Ajit Pai issued a press release (pdf) claiming that he had been meeting with five small ISPs, all of which claimed that net neutrality had seriously harmed their ability to expand their broadband footprints. From the release:

“I appreciated the opportunity to speak with small providers across the country to hear how the FCC?s 2015 rules are impacting them on a day-to-day basis. One constant theme I heard was how Title II had slowed investment and injected regulatory uncertainty into their business plans–in short, heavy-handed regulation is making it harder for smaller providers to close the digital divide in rural America. By lightening the regulatory burden from Washington, we will unleash providers to do what they do best: serve their communities and provide broadband access to residents across the country.”

So one, we’ve already noted how Pai’s breathless dedication to “closing the digital divide” are consistently betrayed by his actions, whether it’s his choice to make life easier for business broadband monopolies, to kill broadband programs (launched by Reagan and expanded by Bush Junior) that aid the poor, or to fiddle with broadband deployment metrics to try and obfuscate a lack of competition in the sector. Again, that Pai’s biggest priority is protecting the revenues of the industry’s biggest and most politically-powerful companies isn’t really something that’s open to debate. His voting record is very clear on this subject.

Two, while Pai tries to suggest that small ISPs are unified in their opposition to the rules, nearly thirty small ISPs have already come out in opposition to the FCC’s plan. Those that support the plan tend to be helmed by partisans more interested in partisan ideological fealty than the mounting evidence that suggests the FCC’s agenda is extreme and counterproductive.

That said, Pai’s press release claiming that net neutrality hurt small ISPs was completely unaccompanied by any hard data. Worse, when consumer advocates went and looked at the ISPs cited by the FCC release, four out of five of them significantly expanded their broadband deployments in the wake of the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules. AirLink Internet Services in Oklahoma, one of the five ISPs cited by Pai, “more than doubled the number of rural Census blocks in which it offered service after the adoption of the [February] 2015 decision it criticizes,” according to a recent FCC filing by consumer advocacy firm Free Press.

Again, the story was the same with four of the five ISPs cited by the FCC. The one ISP that didn’t see significant deployment gains (Amplex Internet in Ohio), still managed to deploy gigabit fiber to an additional 18 census blocks during the time net neutrality rules were in place. Again, that’s entirely according to the FCC’s own data. Data the FCC refused to cite because it proved the exact opposite of the message they wanted to send:

“The data AirLink submitted to the FCC shows that it went from serving 1,482 rural Census blocks at the end of 2014 to more than 3,000 rural blocks by mid-year 2016, he wrote. The company expanded in urban Census blocks as well, going “from 4,251 such blocks to 7,108?an increase of more than 67 percent.” The population served by AirLink increased by 64 percent in rural areas and 59 percent in urban areas, Wood wrote.

The ISPs’ presentations were “rife with such vague statements and outright errors” but did not include any “dollar signs, deployment data, [or] any other quantifiable metric demonstrating the supposed impact of Title II,” Wood wrote. “Perhaps this is because there is no quantifiable harm from Title II, only the anecdotes that these carriers provide when called upon by the Chairman,” he wrote.”

That’s a clever way to state that the FCC’s entire justification for repealing net neutrality has been based on fluff and nonsense, not hard data. When the FCC does cite data, it’s usually data that originates directly from telecom lobbyists pushing for net neutrality repeal. Much like the FCC’s blatant disregard for public and expert input on this proceeding, all of this will make for interesting fodder in the lawsuits coming the agency’s way in the new year.

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Companies: airlink internet services, amplex internet

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Comments on “FCC Boss Claims Net Neutrality Hurts Small ISPs, But The FCC's Own Data Proves Otherwise”

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18 Comments
rorybaust (profile) says:

Hoping it wont happen but it will

Indeed as the saying goes “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” but if as suspected the FCC do vote to remove net neutrality I’m actually looking forward to the ensuring court saga, as correct me if I am wrong but the truth matters in those legal places so we might actually get the real truth on the record. Meanwhile European firms learn how to compete in the real world and the once mighty US grow old and fat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So when will something be done?

“So when will he and his cronies be punished for all out deciet graft and breaking their oath of office”

So when will anyone else be punished? Have you seen anyone else volunteering to punish their corrupt politicians?

Corruption is desired and applauded while people tell you they hate corruption. What they mean is, I only hate corruption when it is used to advance causes I dislike.

Anonymous Coward says:

Arstechnica: According to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, an analysis of public comments on the FCC’s plan to repeal net neutrality rules found that 2 million of them were filed using stolen identities; some comments were submitted under the names of dead people.

Clearly, if Net Neutrality is not repealed, the Internet Access Monopolies will have no motivation to make the investments to provide adequate service to cemeteries, which hurts only the poorest and most disadvantaged of all people.

Anonymous Coward says:

OKAY, every year from now on, I want HARD figures on damage from the change!

Kids, kids. This is a weak and stupid line, requiring knowledge unobtainable to you too: it’s WHAT IF in some “alternate world”.

You haven’t even predicted a vague quantity of damage from removing “Net Neutrality”, just wail “Doom! Teh end of teh internets!”

After 20 years, Techdirt STILL can’t see how simple it is to spoil their pet notions with a simple reverse…

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Of Course They Do

Small ISPs love net neutrality because it limits the business to only providing a blank, empty line, and offering no additional services ever.

Small ISPs are unlikely to start their own video on demand service, they are unlikely to offer their own music streaming product, and so on. They don’t have the money to do it.

Larger ISPs could move into their area, offer internet at a reduced price, and upsell these sorts of services and drive the smaller guys out of business.

When it’s just a question of naked internet, they would all have similar cost structures, and as a result, other companies can’t come into the small guy’s territory and offer more than they already do.

The small guys also can’t afford the legal fight. NN puts them in a position where, provided they follow the rules, they cannot get in trouble. They cannot be sued by parties for not providing service as they provide service equally (at whatever level they happen to offer it).

So yeah, no shit. Small ISPs love anything that keeps them in business and keeps them from paying too much to the lawyers.

XcOM987 (profile) says:

Re: Of Course They Do

Please highlight for me where in the NN rules it states what services an ISP has to provide and what services they are not allowed to provide in the relms of what you have just stated, keep it limited to the argument you have stated, I’ll wait.

There is nothing in the NN rules to stop comcast starting their own streaming services, If that would be the case why does every major ISP provide their own streaming service?

All it means is they wouldn’t be allowed to favour one streaming service over another because they didn’t pay them enough does it now?

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Of Course They Do

What it means is generally they are not suppose to be able to offer in house video or music streaming products that didn’t count against network access datacaps.

AT&T and Verizon are both doing it, Wheeler was trying to get it shut down but after he was removed from the job, Pai pretty much shut the investigations down.

“All it means is they wouldn’t be allowed to favour one streaming service over another because they didn’t pay them enough does it now?”

Actually, NN was suppose to be about the point where an ISP connects to the outside world. It said that everything coming in had to be treated in the same manner, and that no special deals could be made with individual suppliers.

In house offerings don’t use these gateways, and AT&T and Verizon basically went ahead with cap exempt products. Wheeler hated it, Pai shrugged.

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