AT&T (And Friends) Still Hard At Work Making Up Net Neutrality Job Loss Figures

from the scary-looking-pie-charts dept

As the FCC gets closer to crafting network neutrality rules (assuming they even have the authority to do so), AT&T lobbyists have worked overtime to push the idea that creating such rules would automatically result in job losses. To help nudge this scary meme into the press, they hired their old friend Bret Swanson, formerly employed at the Discovery Institute -- a think tank that created both the "Exaflood" (debunked here countless times) and "Intelligent Design". Back in February Swanson, like most AT&T hired policy wonks, used completely bogus "science" to insist that network neutrality rules would result in 1.5 million job losses. He came to that number simply by adding up all of the people employed by companies that submitted comments to the FCC opposing network neutrality (seriously).

Now AT&T is back at work again, this time pushing the job loss claims through an AT&T-backed group called Mobile Future. Mobile Future has sponsored a new study (pdf) claiming that network neutrality laws will result in 340,000 lost jobs over the next 10 years -- and 1.5 million lost jobs across all sectors by 2020. Using the impact the 1996 Telecom Act and local loop unbundling requirements had on the broadband sector as a broad foundation, the study tries to somehow project that FCC neutrality rules would slow broadband revenues by one-sixth. But as Bob Cringley notes, linking the complicated fight over line sharing (however you felt about it) to network neutrality isn't a coherent foundation:

"...it's hard to see how government regulation was the problem when the Bells largely refused to comply with it. You'd think being forced to share aging copper lines with startups would have encouraged the Bells to invest in better, higher-speed networks, not the opposite. Extrapolating from that regulatory situation to Net neutrality is like taking laws regulating manure production by draft horses to make projections about the future of the space shuttle."

Just as with bogus piracy statistics, there's simply too many moving parts to make these kinds of projections one way or the other (and the study doesn't try too hard to support the idea that neutrality could bolster content industry employment). You'd be hard pressed to get a room full of people to agree on what network neutrality even is after years of muddled debate -- much less find a way to tie concrete job loss figures to the nebulous concept. Meanwhile, the AT&T-funded study unsurprisingly skips over the fact that companies like AT&T and Verizon are already laying off a significant number of employees as they lose landline customers (or in Verizon's case, intentionally hang up on rural markets and slow FiOS deployment).

There's also the small fact that while the FCC has issued proposals for new network neutrality rules, they haven't crafted any concrete rules yet or defined key terms -- making job loss predictions premature at best and completely absurd at worst. Even if the FCC were to craft rules defining "fair" network management practices, it seems likely that the final rules (once they run the lobbyist gauntlet) would be just as timid as the agency's national broadband plan, which avoided tackling competition or truly rattling the status quo for fear of upsetting powerful carriers. For all of the annoying and ridiculous hysteria surrounding network neutrality, the most the rules seem likely to cause is a few sleepless nights for carrier lobbyists -- who have to stay up late designing scary-looking pie charts.



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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Apr 29th, 2010 @ 12:00pm

    Why are these people entitled jobs?

    Why is it that jobs disappearing is a terrible event but millions of people occupying USELESS job positions is perfectly acceptable? We can all agree that people losing their jobs is never a happy occurrence, but they act like having a job is some sort of human right. I think it sets a terrible precedent to have jobs just for the sake of having jobs. I guess we live in an age where having a marketable skill is unfair competition to the uneducated labor force.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    1.5 Million jobs lost is a good thing

    That means that there will be 1.5 million more people doing useful things sometime in the future. They are competent enough now, so probably will be in the near future; they will just have productive jobs instead of the unnecessary jobs as indicated by their own report.

     

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    Blatant Coward (profile), Apr 29th, 2010 @ 2:55pm

    1.5 million, sounds familiar...

    Is the new 1.5 million nonexistant jobs the same 1.5 million that wouldn't be lost previously, or is this a different 1.5? Why if it's different nonexisting batch that would mean (grabs AT&T calculator) 15.6 million nonexisting jobs lost!!!! Holeeeeey Cannolis!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2010 @ 5:27pm

    i always laugh when i read anyone on techdirt complaining about bogus numbers. usually they strike back with a collection of bugus numbers. hey karl, is the traffic off on your blog so you are posting here instead?

     

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    Anonymous Savant, Apr 29th, 2010 @ 5:35pm

    "i always laugh"

    Wow, and here I was thinking you didn't have a sense of humor at all. ;)

     

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