Big Telecom’s Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers Continues To Go… Poorly
from the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too dept
We’ve noted several times how the Trump FCC spent four years being little more than a giant rubber stamp for the nation’s biggest telecom monopolies. That included rubber stamping mergers before even reading the details, gutting FCC consumer protection authority, and demolishing decades-old media consolidation rules crafted with broad bipartisan consensus.
The Trump GOP and Congress killed efforts to impose basic privacy rules. They scuttled net neutrality. And they basically convinced the FCC to lobotomize itself so it lacked the authority to police bad behavior by unpopular companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. If you recall, this unpopular policy paradigm was all propped up by the illusion of public support via the use of dead and fake people.
There was only really one telecom industry gambit that didn’t work out during the Trump era, and not because they didn’t try.
The telecom lobby convinced the Trump/Ajit Pai FCC to include language in the “restoring Internet freedom” net neutrality repeal that tried to effectively ban states from being able to protect broadband consumers from fraudulent behavior. The goal was fairly obvious: weaken FCC consumer protection authority, then proclaim that states couldn’t step in and fill the void. Basically: no oversight at all.
Fortunately the courts stepped in to point out that the FCC can’t abdicate its authority over broadband consumer protection, then try to tell states what they can or can’t do. Court rulings have also repeatedly pointed out that the Trump FCC’s attempt to do this wasn’t rooted in, you know, factual reality (which was kind of a theme during a lot of Trump era FCC proceedings favorable to the telecom sector).
This week the courts stepped in once again to tell the telecom lobby that it’s plan to ban states from protecting consumers isn’t going to happen. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this week denied the telecom industry’s petition to have the full court rehear the court’s January ruling (pdf) in the lawsuit over California’s net neutrality law:
Again, when the federal government advertised loud and clear that it no longer cared about telecom consumer protection or monopolization, several states (namely Maine, Washington, and California) stepped in to fill the void with their own privacy and/or net neutrality rules. Comcast, AT&T and friends then tried to sue to stop them (with the help of Bill Barr’s DOJ), but it simply didn’t work out.
The story tends to get lost in the media weeds because it falls under the auspices of “net neutrality,” which has bored the public and press to death. But it’s really something quite larger. It’s the court system actively working (for once), preventing a heavily monopolized sector from effectively gutting most federal and state consumer protection authority based on little more than some wishful thinking and a few winks.