The Same FCC That Ignored Science To Kill Net Neutrality Has Created An 'Office Of Economics & Analysis'
from the fake-science-is-the-best-science dept
You’ll recall that the FCC ignored the public, the people who built the internet, and all objective data as it rushed to repeal net neutrality at Verizon, Comcast and AT&T’s behest. Things got so absurd during the proceeding, the FCC at one point was directing reporters who had questions regarding the FCC’s shaky justifications to telecom industry lobbyists, who were more than happy to molest data until it “proved” FCC assertions on this front (most notably the false claim that net neutrality killed sector investment):
“During a conference call FCC officials held with reporters last week, I asked about this discrepancy between Pai’s assertion that investment is declining and what the actual data shows. The officials dismissed my question, saying I had my facts wrong. But they didn’t offer any data that would prove Pai’s argument.
Reached later, an FCC representative pointed to the USTelecom data (posted above) that Pai previously referenced. The representative declined to make the chairman or anyone else on his staff available for an interview.”
With that as a backdrop, it’s rather amusing to see the FCC this week hyping the creation of a new “Office of Economics and Analytics.” This office, the FCC declares, will be focused on helping to ensure “that economic analysis is deeply and consistently incorporated” into the FCC’s regular operations:
“The Federal Communications Commission today voted to create an FCC Office of Economics and Analytics. This new unit will help ensure that economic analysis is deeply and consistently incorporated as part of the agency?s regular operations. The Office of Economics and Analytics will use existing staff resources by bringing into one office FCC economists, attorneys, and data professionals who work on economic analysis, data policy and management, and research.”
FCC staffers were quick to highlight the office’s creation as a major paradigm shift and a return to “big picture policy thinking”:
— @NathanLeamerFCC (@nathanleamerfcc) January 30, 2018
In an ideal world, this would be something to applaud the FCC for, since it has a long, proud history of using industry-provided data to justify federal apathy to the limited competition inherent in the broken telecom market. Real-world data has always inherently frightened incumbent ISPs like Comcast, since it shows how a lack of competition in countless markets is the primary reason American broadband suffers from high prices, historically awful customer service, and net neutrality violations (which themselves are just another symptom of limited competition).
The former FCC under agency head Tom Wheeler had actually taken some uncharacteristically-concrete steps on that front, including redefining broadband more realistically at 25 Mbps downstream, 3 Mbps upstream (something ISPs and their loyal lawmakers whined incessantly over). The FCC had also been working hard on basing policy decisions based on real world data provided by consumer routers with custom firmware, instead of its long-standing history of blindly taking ISPs’ word at the speeds they deliver consumers.
But Ajit Pai and Trump’s FCC is an entirely different animal.
Ajit Pai’s agency has shown time and time again that its interest in “objective data” consists of blindly parroting “research” by ISP economists, hired specifically to molest the numbers until they justify the agency’s frontal assault on consumer protections and meaningful sector oversight. Pai himself has similarly parroted all manner of falsehoods as he rushed to axe net neutrality, from claims that net neutrality emboldens dictators in Iran and North Korea, to the claim the U.S.’ modest neutrality rules utterly devastated sector investment (disproven by SEC filings, earnings reports, and countless CEO statements).
So yeah, ideally you’d hope this office is used to make sure genuine, objective data is used to fuel agency decisions. But based on the last year’s worth of behavior by Pai, it seems much more likely that the office will simply be used to industrialize the act of using telecom lobbying data to justify federal apathy to the lack of competition in the U.S. broadband market. Perhaps we can start a Techdirt pool on which outcome is the most likely?