from the by-winning-I-mean-losing dept
ISP lobbying and policy groups were, unsurprisingly, quick to mindlessly applaud this week's decision by Congress to kill consumer broadband privacy rules. Actual consumers, however, are far from pleased about Congress' decision to take campaign contributions in exchange for selling consumer privacy rights down river. With cable providers nabbing a growing broadband monopoly, ISPs increasingly merging with giant broadcasters, and neither competition nor regulatory oversight providing much of anything in the way of checks and balances, most people realize we're in for an...interesting ride over the next few years.
Amusingly, even many of Donald Trump's most fervent online supporters were shocked by Congress' and the Trump administration's giant middle finger to consumer privacy. Over at Breitbart, traditionally not a hotbed for nuanced understanding of often-complicated tech policy, commenters were quick to cry foul over the vote to kill the FCC's rules:
Of course many Trump supporters tried to heap the entirety of the blame in the lap of the GOP, ignoring the White House's wholesale support of the killing of the protections. But it was interesting to see several others actually seeing through the broadband industry's bullshit claim that the FTC will somehow come running to magically fill in the privacy enforcement gaps (it has no real authority over broadband, and ISPs can avoid oversight via common carrier exceptions anyway):
Meanwhile, over at The_Donald subreddit, users that traditionally spend their calories happily whining about "snowflakes" and "libtards" suddenly came to the realization that the broadband market isn't competitive, and with neither competitor nor functional regulatory oversight of these ever-expanding telecom giants, the average consumer ("cuck" or not) is going to get screwed by companies like AT&T and Comcast. Repeatedly:
Gosh, it's almost as if some regulations are actually necessary, and one has to intelligently debate the subtle, often-complicated nuance of each implementation! As we've noted the rules were created for a damn good reason. Namely that the lack of competition in the broadband sector had resulted in ISPs engaging in some incredibly idiotic behavior. ISPs in recent months have charged consumers more for privacy, given low income customers even worse customer service, or covertly modified user packets to track users around the internet and build entire profiles -- without telling a single god-damned customer this was happening.
Suddenly realizing their predicament, numerous Trump supporters urged the President to immediately veto the repeal of the rules, again ignoring the fact that Trump's administration has made it repeatedly clear the push to kill the rules had the administration's full-throated support:
Of course the sudden realization that government oversight of giant, anti-competitive corporations is sometimes necessary and even good for consumers has arrived a little late for most of us. It might have been nice if a few of these folks had heeded the warning about hollow populist rhetoric before our collective privacy rights were thrown in the toilet. With the gutting of net neutrality and Trump's likely approval of the massive AT&T Time Warner merger waiting in the wings, there's some additional hard lessons looming for Trump enthusiasts that actually care about tech policy.
That said, this is another reminder of how certain issues (most notably net neutrality and privacy) have been quite intentionally shoveled into idiotic partisan grooves -- despite broad, bipartisan consumer support for both concepts. There are those that benefit by having tech policy discourse mired in such callow debate, but it isn't you or I (oh hi, didn't see you standing there, Comcast). Seeing the world entirely as a game of partisan patty cake -- waged idiotically but enthusiastically in team-colored onesies -- remains an ongoing disservice to us all.