ISPs Push Employees To Urge Governor Brown Veto New California Net Neutrality Bill
from the down-to-the-wire dept
Last week we noted how California managed to shake off ISP lobbyists and pass meaningful net neutrality rules. The rules largely mirror the FCC’s discarded 2015 rules, in that they prohibit throttling or blocking of services that compete with ISP monopolies. But the rules also go a bit further in that they prohibit all of the sneaky bullshit ISPs have creatively-shifted to as their anti-competitive impulses evolved, including restrictions on zero rating and interconnection shenanigans out toward the edge of the network (the cause of those Netflix slowdowns a few years back).
While the California Senate has passed the new law, it still hasn’t been signed by California Governor Jerry Brown. Given Brown’s tendency to occasionally veto efforts that have broad public support, net neutrality activists are a little worried he may shut the entire effort down. Potentially via the argument that the bill would somehow harm ISPs ability to make a living (which has never been true, since you only run afoul of the rules when you behave badly).
ISPs meanwhile have been making a zero hour push to encourage Brown to veto the bill, with activists telling me the CTIA (the wireless industry’s top lobbying organization), Comcast and AT&T all met with Brown at his office last Tuesday. Other ISPs, like Frontier Communications, have taken to urging their employees to demand Brown veto the bill. And, as is usually the case, their arguments aren’t exactly what you’ll call fact-based:
“The email directs users to an online form letter to Brown claiming that Frontier ?supports an open Internet,? but that the bill will ?create significant new costs for consumers, hinder network investment and delay Frontier?s hard work to help close the Digital Divide in California.?
Except Frontier?s ?support? for net neutrality has involved participating in a coalition of ISPs that repeatedly sued the FCC over its modest rules. And claims that net neutrality somehow harms network investment have been repeatedly, painstakingly debunked using public SEC filings, ISP earnings reports, and countless public statements by ISP executives themselves.
The e-mail to employees, which urges them to sign this letter to Brown, also relies on an ISP industry falsehood from way back; the idea that the bill (SB822) would somehow give Netflix and Google “free internet”:
“The email, which notes that employee participation is voluntary, contains numerous other unsubstantiated allegations, including one claim that the bill would somehow create ?free internet for big users like Netflix and Google.”
Obviously there’s nothing about that statement that’s true, though ISPs have long leaned on this idea that content companies are just “free riders” on their networks, hoovering up revenues that, by imaginary divine mandate, should be going into the pockets of the ISPs. Of course every time we suggest to an ISP that they pay Netflix or Google’s bandwidth bill, they go oddly quiet. That’s because, like most ISP talking points on net neutrality, ISPs have to make up points out of whole cloth, since admitting “we just want the freedom to anti-competitively cash in on broken broadband markets” isn’t a winning argument.
If Brown signs the bill, the entire west coast will soon be covered in state-level net neutrality protections, which is certainly not what ISPs had in mind after spending millions to kill net neutrality. If Brown doesn’t sign the bill, he’s going to be opposing the bipartisan majority of Americans who want some degree of meaningful protection standing between them and historically anti-competitive telecom monopolies like Comcast.
While broadband tends to be an issue politicians pay empty lip service to, the FCC’s grotesque handout to Comcast and friends has changed the game. Should Brown veto the bill, he’s only reiterating that monopoly welfare trumps the public interest and the health of the internet, a position that’s likely to hold political consequences moving forward.