Net Neutrality Rules Die Today, But The Backlash Is Just Getting Started

from the ill-communication dept

As you probably already knew, federal net neutrality rules finally die today after the FCC’s unpopular repeal vote last December. And as you might expect, FCC boss Ajit Pai is making the rounds doing what he’s done throughout this entire process: bullshitting the public about what his historically unpopular (and misleadingly-named) “Restoring Internet Freedom” order actually does. Over in a CNET editorial for example, Pai goes so far as to proclaim that gutting these extremely popular open internet protections will somehow make everything much, much, better:

“I support a free and open internet. The internet should be an open platform where you are free to go where you want, and say and do what you want, without having to ask anyone’s permission. And under the Federal Communications Commission’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which takes effect Monday, the internet will be just such an open platform. Our framework will protect consumers and promote better, faster internet access and more competition.”

If you’ve spent any time reading Techdirt, we probably don’t need to repeat why none of this is actually true. The entire piece is a “greatest hits” of Pai’s misleading claims to date, including his insistence that the FTC will be better able to police ISP abuses (false), small ISPs were unfairly burdened by the rules (the FCC’s own data disputes this), gutting net neutrality somehow will force ISPs to be more transparent (false), and that the repeal will result in faster and cheaper broadband service (complete nonsense).

Moving forward, the ISP lobbyist narrative du jour is going to shift to claims that because the internet didn’t immediately grind to a halt after June 11, that the repeal must have been a wonderful idea. That was already something Pai and friends were claiming weeks ago despite the fact the rules hadn’t even been repealed yet. And it’s a claim you’re going to see repeated ad nauseum over the weeks and months to come by the telecom industry’s vast army of hired academics, think tankers, consultants, and other policy mouthpieces.

But despite the cocksure behavior by Pai and pals, the repeal remains on pretty shaky footing. ISPs know that, which is why they will likely try to be on their best behavior for the foreseeable future to avoid adding any fuel to the fire. After all, the repeal was based almost entirely on bogus data, was plagued with an endless array of scandals (from the FCC making up DDOS attacks to dead people’s names being hijacked to support the repeal), and the overwhelming public opposition to it makes the SOPA/PIPA backlash look like a toddler tantrum.

As such, the looming lawsuits against the FCC have a fairly decent chance of success. Those suits will likely focus on the fact that under the Administrative Procedures Act, the FCC can’t just arbitrarily reverse policy without highlighting that the market changed dramatically enough to warrant it (which is why you’ll often see the FCC falsely claiming that net neutrality devastated sector investment). With any luck, this could result in a judge overturning the repeal for being “arbitrary and capricious” (never were those words more true than here).

Meanwhile on the state level, more than half the states in the union are now pursuing some flavor of their own net neutrality protections, whether that’s via executive order (like in Montana), or new net neutrality state law (as in Oregon, Washington, and California). And while ISPs successfully lobbied the FCC to include language in the repeal “pre-empting” (read: banning) states from protecting consumers in this fashion, the FCC’s legal authority to tell states what to do on this subject is resting on some pretty sketchy legal assumptions.

And while these federal and state legal battles play out, the political backlash to this giant middle finger tech policy already isn’t likely to be subtle. Net neutrality has massive bipartisan support, and the lion’s share of the public sees this decision as what it is: a giant middle finger to free speech, healthy competition, and american consumers and small businesses. Our collective disdain for Comcast frequently bridges partisan divides, and while broadband traditionally hasn’t been an issue that sees much traction at the polls, it’s hard to think there won’t be some political price to pay for being on the wrong side of history here.

AT&T, Verizon and Comcast executives know they’ve pushed their luck with this repeal. That’s why ISP lobbyists have been pushing a bogus, loophole filled net neutrality law. A law with one real purpose: to pre-empt tougher state or federal rules, or the restoration of the 2015 rules. But because playing kissy face with Comcast is likely to be politically toxic ahead of the looming midterms, support for this head fake has been unsurprisingly hard to come by. As such, passing new rules down the road remains a very real possibility, especially with a dramatic shake up in the House or Senate.

So while many are understandably frustrated today, the elimination of the FCC’s 2015 rules shouldn’t be seen the end of net neutrality, or the end of the road. It’s more like another chapter in a story that has neither a beginning nor an end. Net neutrality isn’t something that simply “ends” with the creation or elimination of government guidelines. Net neutrality violations are only a symptom of a lack of competition in broadband and decades of regulatory capture. Were we to finally wake up to this problem and stand up to these anti-competitive duopolists, we wouldn’t need net neutrality rules in the first place.

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Comments on “Net Neutrality Rules Die Today, But The Backlash Is Just Getting Started”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


“I support a free and open internet. The internet should be an open platform where you are free to go where you want, and say and do what you want, without having to ask anyone’s permission, but having to pay extra to go to the places you want is a-okay. And under the Federal Communications Commission’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which takes effect Monday, the internet will be just such an open platform, as long as you can afford to pay for what you want. Our framework will protect consumers and promote better, faster internet access (HAHAHAHA) and more competition in how many extra charges can be crammed on your bill to access the entire internet without pushing to far & triggering some toothless division of the government to finally have the ability to take action since the FCC is completely captured by the industry we’re supposed to oversee.”

GoForTheThrout says:


Monopoly: A company or group having exclusive control over a commercial activity.

I’d rather that congress got their act together (laugh) and approached the problem from the AntiTrust perspective.

1. Disconnect Content from Connection
ISPs provide connection only, cannot touch the content.

2. Last Mile is Open Access
Any provider can service residential or commercial.

3. Backbone providers get regulatory oversight
The internet isn’t just the ISP, ISPs rely on backbone providers, e.g. Centurylink aquired Level 3 – this should not happen.

4. Regional Providers
Break the regional monopoly stranglehold, regions are not divided, they should be open to any ISP.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: SolutionsThroughAntiTrust

I am a big fan of anti-monopoly and anti-trust regulations.

I hate things like NN because they are pointless. The POWER is in the monopoly itself and as long as they are allowed to stand no amount of regulation will be effective. The best you will get is some lube before getting fucked in the trade off, because the monopoly will just buy favor from the regulators via the revolving door between the industry and government.

The ONLY thing citizens managed to accomplish in their blind support of moar regulation is getting their own voices silenced!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: SolutionsThroughAntiTrust

because the monopoly will just buy favor from the regulators via the revolving door between the industry and government.

That is a problem in the US because of short term appointment to senior regulatory positions. Here in the UK, the senior regulators are there because it is their career, and so usually do an effective job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: SolutionsThroughAntiTrust

“That is a problem in the US because of short term appointment to senior regulatory positions.”

That is not really correct. The reason that regulators were tied to our candidates is to hold the people we did elect into office for the stupid things the regulators did. Since we Americans are lazy and ignorant we don’t do this any more.

Instead we placate ourselves with quotes about “never attribute to malice what can adequately explain with stupidity.”

Our declaration of independence says it best…

—Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security—

It is easier for people to just suffer under tyranny than it is for them to expend the actual effort required to fix it. Hence the current idiocy of the day where people endlessly run to politicians to create laws in vain attempts to be saved. I have not seen anyone saved yet, why do they keep trying? Have seen a lot of victims though…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: SolutionsThroughAntiTrust

I agree. Net Neutrality never actually solved a problem, and it’s repeal won’t create one.

If a company tries to enact the things that NN was supposedly going to prevent, then there will be other ramifications. As long as there really is an open market for competition, their business will suffer.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: SolutionsThroughAntiTrust

“Net Neutrality never actually solved a problem”

Net neutrality is the state that was meant to be protected. The rules related to it were meant to prevent problems, not solve them.

“If a company tries to enact the things that NN was supposedly going to prevent”

They actually already did, which is why the rules were enacted. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve found a single person opposed to net neutrality rules who have the faintest clue about the reality of the whole issue, you all seem to have bought into some random fiction.

“As long as there really is an open market for competition”

Hence the current issue, since that does not exist in much of the US…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Short-term thinking, meet long-term consequences

Yeah, it’s been rather entertaining watching them realize that by getting the FCC out of the game they now have dozens of potential sets of rules rather than just one.

Listening to them whine about the hole they shot in their own foot is definitely worth some schadenfreude, though also care as they try to override the various states with an intentionally toothless set of ‘rules’ in congress.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Short-term thinking, meet long-term consequences

A lesson the Pro-NN crowd didn’t learn either. NN did not last long did it? The irony is the fact that everyone is trying to force the agency that got rid of NN to keep it. Do you expect it to be enforced well to boot?

Businesses are all short-term now, but so are the citizens. If people really cared about long term they would stop voting the way they do and start petitioning the government to stop letting these agencies from unconstitutionally creating or changing laws.

Congress may only create agencies to ENFORCE the law, NOT create agencies that can create law.

Article 1 Section 1 (the first fucking sentence after the preamble)

“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

This makes it clear… only the Legislative branch can create law, not the president through EO, or any member of the Judicial Branch… and sure as fuck not any agency that congress creates… as stated in…

Section 8

“18: To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

Congress never had the power to give agencies the power to create regulations, they only have the power to give them the power to enforce the laws/regulations that Congress creates!

But it’s not like folks around here can read plain English either.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Short-term thinking, meet long-term consequences

“NN did not last long did it? “

So, despite your rambling about how others can’t read, you still don’t understand that NN was not created by the laws put into place to try and protect it, but that it was the natural state of the internet since its inception?

That’s where the comedy value comes in, you act as if your knowledge is superior, but you still haven’t grasped the most basic point of the subject you argue about.

Brian Nebeker says:

Re: Re:

Just because you have the freedom to say what you like does not mean you are not subject to the ramifications of what you say.

The internet was designed with the idea of freely sharing information. But if you using that ability to commit an illegal act you are still subject to penalty of law just like you would be using any other medium.

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