Comcast's Push For A Shitty New Net Neutrality Law Begins In Earnest

from the regulatory-trojan-horse dept

As we’ve been noting for a while, the FCC’s 3-2 vote to kill net neutrality is really only the beginning of a new chapter in the fight for a healthy, competitive internet. The rules won’t truly be repealed until 60 days after they hit the federal register in January. And even then, the repeal will have to survive a multi-pronged legal assault against the FCC, accusing it of ignoring the public interest, ignoring feedback from countless experts, and turning a blind eye to all of the procedural oddities that occurred during its proceeding (like, oh, the fact that only dead and artificial people appear to support what the FCC is up to).

ISPs know that this legal fight faces a steep uphill battle with all of the procedural missteps at the FCC. That’s why we’ve been warning for a while that ISPs (and their army of think tankers, sock puppets, consultants, and other allies) will soon begin pushing hard for a new net neutrality law. One that professes to “put this whole debate to bed,” but contains so many loopholes as to be useless. The real purpose of such a law? To codify federal net neutrality apathy into law, and to prevent the FCC from simply passing tougher rules down the road.

Just like clockwork, Comcast responded to last week’s net neutrality killing vote with a blog post by top Comcast lobbyist David Cohen (the company, for the record, hates it when you call Cohen a lobbyist) calling for a new, Comcast-approved law. Cohen declares that it’s “time for Congress to act and permanently preserve the internet,” while repeatedly and comically trying to downplay Comcast’s own role in the chaos we’re currently witnessing:

“Unfortunately, there are others who want to continue engaging in a never ending game of back and forth, creating unnecessary anxiety and contributing to an unneeded level of hysteria. Some will undoubtedly continue threatening litigation that does nothing to protect consumers or freedom of the Internet.”

Funny, since the one doing the litigating is Comcast, which sued to overturn both the FCC’s 2010 and 2015 net neutrality protections. Regardless, Cohen would have you believe that the only path forward at this point is the creation of a new net neutrality law. One, Cohen knows very well would be quite literally written by Comcast thanks to our campaign-cash-slathered Congress. Such a law would, Comcast argues, end the “regulatory ping pong” that Comcast itself is perpetuating:

“It?s now time for all of us to take advantage of this moment in time and end the cycle of regulatory ping pong we?ve been trapped in for over a decade and put this issue to rest once and for all. And there?s a simple way to do this — we really must have bipartisan congressional legislation to permanently preserve and solidify net neutrality protections for consumers and to provide ongoing certainty to ISPs and edge providers alike.”

So what would a Comcast-approved net neutrality law look like? Comcast has repeatedly made it clear that it supports a ban on the blatant throttling or blocking of websites and services by ISPs, since that’s not something ISPs were interested in doing anyway. ISPs long ago realized there’s an ocean of more subtle ways to abuse a lack of competition in the broadband market. For example. why block Netflix outright (and risk a massive PR backlash) when you can impose arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps and overage fees that only apply to Netflix, not Comcast’s own content?

So, expect any Comcast-approved law to outlaw all of the things large ISPs never intended to do, while ignoring all of the more subtle areas that the net neutrality fight has evolved to cover. For example, a Comcast-approved law won’t even mention caps or zero rating. Nor will it address the shenanigans we’ve seen on the interconnection front. But any Comcast-approved law will include ample loopholes allowing Comcast to do pretty much whatever it likes provided it ambiguously suggests it’s for the health of the network (a major problem in the FCC’s flimsy 2010 rules).

Since he played a starring role the last time ISPs tried this, expect Senator John Thune to play a starring role in this effort. You should also expect an ocean of editorials from ISP-funded policy folk (where financial conflicts of interest aren’t disclosed) to start popping up on websites and newspapers nationwide insisting a net neutrality law is the only path forward and that anybody that opposes this push simply isn’t being reasonable.

And while many lawmakers and media folk will be tempted to support this push arguing it’s better than no rules at all that’s not really true. If flimsy and poorly-written, this new Comcast-approved legislation could simply codify federal net neutrality apathy into law, while banning any future FCCs’ or Congress’ (say, a theoretical one not quite so beholden to ISP cash) from passing real protections down the line. The best bet at stopping this net neutrality repeal currently rests with the courts. Should that fail we can revisit this conversation, but only if voters are able to drive ISP-loyal marionettes out of office.

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Comments on “Comcast's Push For A Shitty New Net Neutrality Law Begins In Earnest”

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: narrative?

You missed the meaning of that bit. Any Comcast-written bill would obviously include protections against the major, noticeable actions that consumers and legislators alike believe the ISPs would pull off without Network Neutrality. Of course Comcast would ease fears with that sort of move. But that bill would also include plenty of loopholes for the ISPs to exploit for their benefit.

ISPs should have a say when it comes to any Network Neutrality bill. They should not, however, be the only voice.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: narrative?

“Make your mind up already.”

Good thing TD is sensible enough to see the shifting needs of the market and change their minds, no?

And while you haven’t explicitly said it you are probably talking about the Googles and Facebooks of life that can’t be compared to telcos because 1- they can’t prevent you from using the competition (Google+ is there to prove it) because they don’t own the infrastructure, 2-they don’t own the infrastructure (I thought this should be emphasized) and 3- they are a mono/duopoly.

So, unlike in your black and white world, there are times where you should be very scared of what’s going to happen. If Google go rogue you can always go Microsoft for instance. If Facebook goes rogue you can always go to insert the multitude of social networks available here. They won’t abuse much in an unregulated field because they simply can’t. And when Facebook tried to build its walled garden internet in India the Indians said no to the bullshit. And regulated the shit out of net neutrality.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: narrative?

I guess I need to use smaller words.

What I said is that during the whole “ZOMG NN!” deal for the last month or so, there are any number of instances where the specter of ISPs blocking sites and slowing stuff down on purpose has been raised.

Now that they are proposing rules that include specifying that they wouldn’t be allowed to do such things, it’s dismissed as “they wouldn’t have done that anyway”.


I have be repeated over and and over again that ISPs aren’t stupid enough to do things that would invite FTC scrutiny. Overt blocked, intentional slowing (beyond reasonable network management) or otherwise making certain sites inaccessible would be suicidal. I knew that, and pointed it out often.

I got shouted down for it.

I seem to remember even someone like you pulling out a list of all the bad things that ISPs have done all over the world (I think you got to 10 in 20 years). It included the dreaded blocking and slowing down points.

So no, I am not talking about Facebook or Twitter or Google, sorry.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: narrative?

“Now that they are proposing rules that include specifying that they wouldn’t be allowed to do such things, it’s dismissed as “they wouldn’t have done that anyway”.”

Exactly. Because this is not the point. blocking sites would trigger a PR shitstorm they know they won’t be able to handle. What they want is to use that excuse “codify that outrageous behavior into law!” to piggyback loopholes into it that will allow less obvious but equally egregious behavior such as selective throttling traffic, double or triple charging for connections etc etc. Not to mention benefits from Title II that don’t even touch NN directly.

“I have be repeated over and and over again that ISPs aren’t stupid enough to do things that would invite FTC scrutiny. Overt blocked, intentional slowing (beyond reasonable network management) or otherwise making certain sites inaccessible would be suicidal. I knew that, and pointed it out often.”

Thanks, captain Obvious! And you kept ignoring all the rest while pointing at the low hanging fruit.

“I seem to remember even someone like you pulling out a list of all the bad things that ISPs have done all over the world (I think you got to 10 in 20 years). It included the dreaded blocking and slowing down points.”

Indeed. Showing that the ISPs cannot be trusted to behave without being regulated. And even some of otherwise unthinkable stuff like that zombie cookie from Verizon that is both a privacy and a security major violation has taken place.

“So no, I am not talking about Facebook or Twitter or Google, sorry.”

Finally. But you are still ignoring whatever isn’t dead obvious. You are ignoring that they won’t ever take any draconian step but rather try to slow boil the frog. Remember when there weren’t data caps? Fun times. I live in a ‘3rd world’ country and there are no data caps on any ISP around here. Not because they didn’t try, they did. Until lawmakers told them to fuck off. And incredibly they are still investing strong. My ISP recently started offering gigabit speeds =) Obviously we still have a lot to do here in terms of access and quality. But we don’t have to worry about ISPs proposing fast lanes. Because it’s codified into law. Truth be said, the execs have smiles from ear to ear after the US took that extremely backwards decision because they will use it to try to repeal the law here.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 narrative?

We still end up at the same point.

When NN was the rule and it was threatened, everyone said “ISPs will do all this bad stuff like this”.

Now that NN is gone, ISPs are saying “let’s pass into law that we can’t do this bad shit” – and Karl says it doesn’t matter, they wouldn’t do it anyway.

Last week they would do it. This week they won’t.

Pick one. Stick with it.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 narrative?

And you keep ignoring the point.

This bad shit won’t happen anyway and while it may be a good thing to codify such behaviors into law it’s not the freaking point. It’s like screaming about the elephant in the room while ignoring the lethal fungus that is growing everywhere because the elephant is the immediate annoyance.

The 2015 rules had wide support among both political spectrum in the US and clearly not only didn’t hamper investment but also solved interconnection issues almost magically. So let us get these rules and make a law with them, Title II and all, shall we?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: narrative?

What I said is that during the whole "ZOMG NN!" deal for the last month or so, there are any number of instances where the specter of ISPs blocking sites and slowing stuff down on purpose has been raised.

If there are "any number of instances" where we invoked "the specter of ISPs blocking sites" can you point us to where we said that?

Because it sure looks like you’re taking a swing at a strawman based on some of the more hysterical NN talking points elsewhere, rather than here. But, I mean, sure, I understand you have nothing real to attack us with, so you have to make up shit. But, you know, doesn’t that get tiring at some point? How long have you been doing this around here? 10 years? More? Is your life really so empty that the best you can do is make up shit about things we’ve said to try to knock over strawmen in a manner that appears to convince zero people?

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: narrative?

The thing that’s always so weird to me about the "butbutbut Google!" argument is — well, yes, I do think there should be additional restrictions on Google, specifically in terms of what information it’s allowed to track and how it’s allowed to do it, and, uh, your point? It is possible to introduce better privacy protections for consumers and protect net neutrality. The two things are not mutually exclusive at all.

edinjapan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Changing narrative

The real narrative here is 70% of the readers of this post will do nothing if Comcast et al increase their rates and throttle speeds substantially. Of course they’ll complain but we all know that that does SFA. The other 30% will write apps and build tools to allow people to pirate faster speeds, higher bandwidth and break into walled internet gardens.

Afterall didn’t people such as John “Captain Crunch” Draper, Mark Bernay, Al Bernay, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs set a precedent for this sort of activity back in the day?

ECA (profile) says:

Dear Congress..

I request that you ASK, all these companies to return all monies that you have given to them over the last 50 years..

You can do YOU and WE supported all of this.
The phone system
The Backbone
The hardware updates when the system needed s Push to get caught up..

It should be a good amount. As you have paid them 2 times in the last 15 years to get the LAST MILE updated…

all you customers and citizens…CUT THE CORD..
Phones/cellphones/cable/sat/internet…its all the same backbone..

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn't this just Ducky!

Brain, I’m just so excited! Your plan worked to perfection! NARF! We got the American voters to elect your Donald Trump robot! And Then… And then, I came up with that smashingly ingenious slogan to “Drain the Swamp!”

Yes! Yes! I know Brain, it was your idea to roll back Net Neutrality and hire that loser from Comcast. And NOW… AND now…. Errr Brain… What are we going to do next?

I know, we can make Mike Masnick wear a pink ballet tutu! And erect a giant paywall around his site! NARF!

Anything a Comcast controlled FCC comes up with has as much chance of working as a plan worked up by Brain and erstwhile sidekick Pinky. The United States will be mired in mediocrity designed to benefit the big broadcast, cable and ISP companies and the rest of the world will just continue to zip along.

Anonymous Coward says:

Where did they get this guy?

While sir David “the fixer” Cohen – Since he will not admit to being a lobbyist, fixer is used here, for a person coordinating lobbyists with the companys policy and political incentive and endorsement investment – can certainly run the “we are willing to compromise” when Pai is in charge, but his comments when Wheeler was in charge is quite a different animal. There is no consistency, reason or ending of anciety in removing net neutrality before congress has made a replacement. If anything it prolongs anxiety and legal uncertainty!
At the same time Comcast was the company who caused net neutrality to be proposed in the first place by blocking torrent-traffic and the company behind title II since it sued and won against FCC on title I not giving the authority. So much for not litigating!

The guy is a veritable hypocricy-machine gun. To his credit, he is consistent at that!

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