Ajit Pai Gloats As House Fails To Restore Net Neutrality

from the pendulum-always-swings-back-around dept

While a long shot, we’ve previously discussed how the outgoing House and Senate could have voted to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). And while the Senate voted 52 to 47 to approve the move last May, efforts to get the 218 votes needed in the House had been stuck in neutral as House Representatives remained blindly loyal to their real constituents: AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast.

As a result the clock ran out, and that route for restoration of the rules has died a whimpering demise. As is his tendency, FCC boss Ajit Pai couldn’t just savor the “win.” He felt compelled to issue a public statement (pdf) in which he not only gloats over the failure, but packs a large number of false statements into a relatively short paragraph:

“I?m pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulation. They did the right thing?especially considering the positive results for American consumers since the adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Over the past year, the Internet has remained free and open. Broadband speeds are up, with download speeds in the United States increasing more than 35% in 2018, according to a recent report from Ookla. Internet access is also expanding, and the digital divide is closing. For example, a recent report by the Fiber Broadband Association found that fiber was made available to more new homes in 2018 than in any previous year. In short, the FCC?s light-touch approach is working. In 2019, we?ll continue to pursue our forward-looking agenda to bring digital opportunity to all Americans.”

Oh, goody.

One, the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules weren’t “heavy handed.” By international standards (Japan, Canada, The Netherlands) they were relatively weak, and were, in reality, pretty much the very least the US government could do to try and rein in natural telecom monopolies in the absence of real competition. Two, while Pai applauds a “strong bipartisan majority” in the House, that majority actively ignored the bipartisan majority of their constituents who support net neutrality and wanted the rules left intact in the first place.

Pai also felt oddly compelled to take credit for fairly marginal speed increases he had little to do with. Broadband speeds being up 35% has more to do with natural evolution (largely relatively cheap DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades on cable networks) than anything else. And at least a healthy portion of that speed increase is thanks to community fiber networks Pai actively opposes. Claiming any of this had anything to do with net neutrality is patently false.

Of course there’s plenty of realities Pai would rather not talk about. Like that time Verizon throttled the mobile connections of California firefighters (while they were fighting a wildfire) and Pai did nothing. Or when CenturyLink blocked user internet access until users clicked on an ad, and the FCC said absolutely nothing. Or last week when AT&T quietly began violating net neutrality by only applying broadband usage limits if you use a competitor’s streaming service. Not a word from the FCC about any of it, despite ample claims that the perils of non-neutrality are utterly hallucinated.

Nor does Pai much want to talk about the fact that as US telcos refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines, it’s letting cable giants like Spectrum and Comcast nab a greater monopoly over fixed-line broadband, resulting in some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world. Or how anybody with an IQ over 70 can see natural monopolies and media conglomerates like AT&T and Comcast hope to use their massive size and leverage to tilt the playing field and harm smaller streaming competitors in the online video wars to come.

Granted, restoring net neutrality via the CRA was always a long shot. Even if net neutrality advocates had managed to nab the needed House votes, the proposal would have needed to avoid a Trump veto. Still, consumer group efforts to get lawmakers to clearly demonstrate their position on this issue (you can find a breakdown here) served two valuable purposes: it helped illustrate which politicians clearly have no regard for their constituents (who, again, overwhelmingly oppose what Pai’s been up to), while also applying pressure for the inevitable legislative battles to come.

That said, it’s pretty telling that Pai couldn’t just quietly enjoy the policy “win” here. Like the man who appointed him, he felt compelled to troll his opponents, gloat over a victory he had little to do with, and issue a statement packed with numerous falsehoods and distortions in the belief that that now passes for leadership. Unfortunately for Pai, the real battle is only just beginning thanks to next month’s looming net neutrality court fight, where his agency’s historically-bizarre behaviors (from making up a DDOS attack to turning a blind eye to identity theft and fraud) won’t be left quite so open to “creative” interpretation.

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Comments on “Ajit Pai Gloats As House Fails To Restore Net Neutrality”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

"Look, a distraction!"

Given the slew of things he’d really rather not talk about(or at least talk about honestly), and his character as has been demonstrated time and time again, I can’t say I’m surprised at his action here. Disgusted to be sure, but not surprised.

Addressing even the handful of things mentioned in the article would either require contortions that would make a circus performer proud, even more lies(though that would hardly be a hardship for him to manage), or both, so of course he’s going to take the opportunity to gloat as the stooges of his bosses failed to reverse his greatest ‘accomplishment’; I’d have been more surprised if he hadn’t.

Ninja (profile) says:

The main purpose wasn’t to restore NN. It was a long shot and everybody knew it even if it would be a pleasant surprise if it worked. The purpose was to expose the lawmakers that couldn’t care less about their constituents. And this mission was accomplished with distinction.

Gloat harder Pai. Trump is already nosediving. You’ll follow soon.

Colonel Panic of the Linux Brigades says:

Now show me your numbers for actual harm.

By international standards (Japan, Canada, The Netherlands) they were relatively weak, and were, in reality, pretty much the very least the US government could do to try and rein in natural telecom monopolies in the absence of real competition.

Exactly. You foreigners should admire how we in the US soldier on under the awful burden with scarcely a complaint. Valiant Techdirt scans the net daily for whimpers from the oppressed masses, picking up and amplifying with its powerful reach, thereby keeping the monopolies fearful.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“You foreigners should admire how we in the US soldier on under the awful burden with scarcely a complaint. “

Admire how you don’t complain about having a worse service at a higher price than me, while demanding that further rights be stripped from you?

Well, if you insist, although I don’t see how that makes you situation any better.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Capito (R-WV)
Cassidy (R-LA)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Cotton (R-AR)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Ernst (R-IA)
Fischer (R-NE)
Flake (R-AZ)
Gardner (R-CO)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (R-WI)
Lankford (R-OK)
Lee (R-UT)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Perdue (R-GA)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rounds (R-SD)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Shelby (R-AL)
Sullivan (R-AK)
Thune (R-SD)
Tillis (R-NC)
Toomey (R-PA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Young (R-IN)

If you’re an internet user, the senators named above have voted explicity to harm you – in most cases placing their corporate campaign contributions above your interests.

If you’re an American, or know one, please do your part to ensure that those on this list pay the price for their transgressions come the next election season.

(I’d have included a list of representatives if I had been able to find a list of those in the House who *hadn’t* signed on.)

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Techdirt only has a partial Markdown implementation. This is likely deliberate, to keep people from doing things like posting images in comments, but it seems to have been done a bit sloppily and they’re missing a bunch of important formatting stuff, like the part that turns single returns into BR tags.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Argh, I checked the Markdown spec, and you’re right. I’m used to a few other sites that use an extended Markdown version that’s more user-friendly.

Having said that, some of the omissions in Techdirt’s version are very annoying. For example, the fact that not only does a single return not work, but there is also no other way at all to create a single line break, (double-returns create a P tag which is much larger, both mechanisms for "code literal" formatting have been stripped out, and no HTML support means you can’t write a BR tag,) is quite annoying at times.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

(I’d have included a list of representatives if I had been able to find a list of those in the House who hadn’t signed on.)

https://www.battleforthenet.com/scoreboard/all/ has both senators and reps.

Annoyingly, Arizona’s senate race was between Martha McSally, who opposes NN outright, and Kyrsten Sinema, who claims to support it but didn’t sign the discharge petition. Neither a great option. (And both will be seated as senators today; Sinema won the election, and McSally was appointed to fill McCain’s seat.)

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I mean, she’s a three-term congresswoman; it’s not like we don’t have an indication of how she’s voted in the past to predict how she’ll vote in the future.

She voted with Republicans 63% of the time last term. That’s extremely conservative for her/my district (which includes ASU and is very liberal for Arizona), but it’s pretty much bang-on the median for Arizona. I think it’s certain that the reason she tacked to the right as a congresswoman was because she intended to run for Senate; now that she’s won a Senate seat, I don’t expect her to change strategies right away.

Her votes in the next two years will be largely symbolic. Congress is divided, and was already barely capable of passing legislation when the Republican Party controlled both houses.

Glenn says:

Zero-rating content streamed from the ISP’s network–not the Internet–is not a violation of network neutrality; subscribers pay for Internet access, not access to the ISP’s network. Having usage caps, however, is a simple case of fraud. And for the ISPs trying to get the sites visited by their subscribers to pay the ISP even more their traffic… that’s an even worse case of criminal fraud and outright robbery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There is no way it will stay at just usage caps without strict rules.

ISPs are heavily incentivized to downgrade speeds for non-network streaming sites. Some are extremely close to doing just that to increase subscriber counts of their current streaming sites. Even for “free” services that come with a cell phone or internet plan, the increased subscribers means higher CPMs for advertisers.

Look at AT&T and their video downgrade to 480p unless you pay them extra money. I would not be surprised to learn during their 5G rollout that DirectTV Now and other AT&T owned channels will be exempt from this video quality downgrade.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Zero-rating content streamed from the ISP’s network–not the Internet–is not a violation of network neutrality”

I’m not so sure about that, but side stepping that item one can point out that unfair competition is frowned upon if not outright illegal. When the ISP owns the content and zero rates their own subscribers while charging competitors and users for access .. it is possible that line is crossed. Whether it be considered NN or maybe anti trust is for the lawyers to figure out, but it should not be allowed from a basic business standpoint. Capitalism without competition is called something else.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Paypal

I don’t like Paypal for refusing service to interests based on their politics either. As such, I avoid using paypal.

But you have a curiously narrow of what counts as a real liberal. I suspect your notion of what a Marxist is doesn’t match closely to actual Marxism.

Maybe stop labeling and assuming, and focus on the issues, say the diffierence between last-mile telecom services vs. computer and device OSes and webservices. (You might as well throw game consoles in as well.)

That’s a topic worth discussing and doesn’t involve trying to classify people based on their opinions.

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