Mobile Providers: No One Has Complained* About Our Service, So Net Neutrality Shouldn't Apply To Us

from the *based-on-our-very-convoluted-definition-of-complained dept

As we've pointed out in the past, the wireless providers, led by lobbying group CTIA, are desperate not to have the FCC include wireless broadband in whatever new net neutrality/open internet rules it releases. However, Tom Wheeler has been hinting that he's had enough of wireless providers screwing over the American public. The head of CTIA, Meredith Attwell Baker (famous for jumping from an FCC commissioner job to head Comcast lobbyist just months after she approved Comcast's merger with NBC Universal), has written an absolutely hilarious opinion piece at Wireless Week insisting that everyone loves their wireless providers, so there's no need whatsoever to apply any net neutrality rules.

Of course, her definition of everybody loving their mobile operator differs from, well, basically everyone not paid by the mobile operators to be their public spokesperson.
From our innovation economy to the free exchange of ideas, the United States is a shining example to the world of the promise of an open Internet. It is widely embraced by policymakers, innovators and consumers alike, particularly with respect to mobile broadband. We remain the global leader in mobile innovation and have embraced openness across the ecosystem. So much so, that not a single formal complaint against wireless providers has been made to the Federal Communications Commission since it first adopted open Internet rules in 2010.
Oh, really? First of all, that last sentence is so ridiculous that it deserves a special callout for just how blatantly dishonest it is. You know why there's been no formal complaint to the FCC against wireless providers under its 2010 open internet rules? Because those rules never applied to wireless in the first place. This was one of the major loophole/problems with the 2010 rules: they explicitly carved out wireless providers. So the reason why there haven't been any formal complaints against wireless providers is because you couldn't make a formal complaint under those rules. To use that as the example of "nothing to see, move along now" is ridiculous -- and totally dishonest.

Furthermore, the idea that the US is a "shining example" is laughable. Our mobile broadband offerings are a joke. The mobile carriers have run into many, many problems, often around really nasty anti-consumer practices. As we've discussed just this week, AT&T got fined for lying to subscribers by selling them an "unlimited" plan and then throttling it down to useless, and Verizon Wireless agreed to pay $64 million for regularly overbilling customers. Sure, there were no complaints under the open internet rules that didn't even apply to the wireless providers, but there were tons of complaints about anti-consumer behavior.

And that's not even mentioning AT&T getting fined (earlier this month) for cramming charges put on consumers' bills (in which the FCC made use of its Title II authority, which could be the prime tool for net neutrality rules). Or their efforts to block out alternate payment solutions in favor of their own ISIS Softcard initiative. Or the efforts to block certain devices from their network.

The US mobile broadband network is not, in any way, a shining beacon of openness and freedom as Attwell Baker represents. It's the opposite.
Subjecting wireless broadband networks to rules that dictate how wired broadband networks are designed and operated would be a mistake. Instead, wireless network managers need maximum flexibility to keep networks expanding and clear. And wireless companies need the ability to differentiate their products and services without having to ask permission. This is our best guarantee that we maintain an open and innovative Internet—one in which mobile broadband retains its virtually limitless capacity to transform our lives.
Ha! What she's proposing is that while wireless providers may not have to ask for permission, everyone else will have to do so because what CTIA wants is for the mobile operators to be able to discriminate and block and set up tollbooths. If we have to choose between the big wireless providers having to "ask for permission" from the FCC to engage in anti-consumer behavior... or every app maker, or online service provider having to beg for permission to work on a mobile network, it seems like the former is much more likely to lead to an "open and innovative internet."
In commenting on last month’s vote for Scottish independence, President Obama turned to an old maxim that retains a modern ring of truth: ‘If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.’ When it comes to maintaining the open Internet and all the momentum surrounding mobile broadband, we couldn't agree more.
It seems like the mobile ecosystem is very, very broken, considering just how much the mobile operators have been able to get away with. But, we're supposed to ignore all of that just because no one complained under a set of rules that they couldn't complain under? How stupid does CTIA think everyone is?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:02pm

    If it ain't broke; don't fix it

    Yep... the moment you utter this line I lose a little respect for you.

    Horse and Carts were not broke, but we still invented cars.
    Hot Air balloons and the Hindenburg were good... till it literally went down in flames!

    This is a line for the simpleminded... that like the simple life and lack critical intelligence.

    The Internet worked on 56k Modems too... would still work.. if you dont mind fixing a sammich waiting for every page click!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 2:53pm

      Re: If it ain't broke; don't fix it

      None of your examples are of fixing things that weren't broke.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 5:51pm

        Re: Re: If it ain't broke; don't fix it

        Looks like your mind was out to lunch when you read the post and the article.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 8:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: If it ain't broke; don't fix it

          I was speaking purely about the two examples the AC used. I think they're bad ones. Horses & carts had a lot of things wrong with them, as did 56k modems. How does that mean my mind was out to lunch?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 3:18pm

      Re: If it ain't broke; don't fix it

      Many cars today don't have the lifespan of a gallon of milk

      Hot Air balloons are far more energy efficient and are far greener than modern aircraft.

      If it ain't broke don't fix it ,doesn't mean halting innovation and moving forward , more like in it's present state at this moment it makes no sense tearing down whats built, when you can put a new roof on it later.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 6:03pm

        Re: Re: If it ain't broke; don't fix it

        the stupid, it burns... the ain't broke don't fix it was used in the context that we do not need to improve.

        Read the article again... here let me help you out.

        "In commenting on last month’s vote for Scottish independence, President Obama turned to an old maxim that retains a modern ring of truth: ‘If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it.’ When it comes to maintaining the open Internet and all the momentum surrounding mobile broadband, we couldn't agree more."

        In context, whether Scottish dependance on the UK was broken or not, it still has the potential to be an improvement for them to have their Independence. While this section is segue from the Scott's to the InteWebs, I hope you can figure it out by now. Neither are technically broken, but using that like to resist changes to either is wholesome ignorance! If you carefully read your comment along with mine and think critically, you will find that you actually agree with me!

        Has it sunken in NOW?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:05pm

    Meredith Attwell Baker has absolutely zero credibility after running out the revolving door so fast after the Comcast/NBC merger, that she blew the door off it's hinges.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:14pm

    Bold faced liars with a license to steal, sounds like American Capitalism to me. I stopped using there services a few years back, and refuse to call their "luxury" a necessity, as many Americans now believe it is. Never again... keep your stinking mitts away from my wallet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tobogo tee geek, 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:38pm

    +1 Anonymous Coward!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JWW (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:51pm

    Hmmmmmm

    They must be missing the store in my town. Every time I go in there I complain about the bandwidth caps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 2:25pm

      Re: Hmmmmmm

      Which would raise the question: Why do you bother?

      There's little or no point to complaining about any large company product these days. There's never an organized system for complaints; because if a company actually accumulated complaints, someone might use that as evidence their product is less than perfect. From the company perspective, what they offer is what you get, take it or leave it.

      That's why so few people bother to complain these days. If something is truly unacceptable, most people just vote with their feet. Your choice today is to pick the company that has the problems you can live with; very like voting for politicians. (If you don't have a choice, well that sucks.)

      If the product offerings get bad enough, the loss of market share forces the company to improve; that's the only "complaint" companies understand. The rest of the complaints go in the round file.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 2:36pm

    So why are there only few complaints? A report 'Bundesnetzagentur', the German FCC, on traffic management by European network providers sheds some light on this: The providers are allowed to keep all information on throttling and deep packet inspection as 'commercial secrets' - can't have customers know about it and complain ...
    (https://netzpolitik.org/2014/studie-der-bundesnetzagentur-netzneutralitaet-wird-in-ganz-europa-v erletzt-provider-verweigern-auskunft-zu-details/ in German, the pictures show how large parts of provider statements have been blackened out before publication). To be clear: It is the providers that do the censoring, but the watchdog that expressively allows them to withhold the information from the customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 2:38pm

    LTE still sucks

    It's supposed to give you these really good speed, but it still is often slow and unreliable. I get much better speeds when I'm on wifi than on LTE, despite the fact that my wired connection through wifi is technically slower than my LTE connection. And very often the little "LTE" symbol on my phone will often drop down to 4G (HSPA+) the second I actually try to use my data connection.

    It's not bad by any means. EDGE was functionally useless, and 3G was barely usable. None of these technologies seem to reliably offer the speeds they claim though. But if they can't even deliver what they promise, how will we hold their feet to the fire if not by forcing them to explain why?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Trevor, 31 Oct 2014 @ 2:44pm

    Correction

    ...the United States is a shining example to the world of the promise of an open Internet.

    Ms. Baker misspelled "stinking" in that sentence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 3:25pm

    Meredith Attwell Baker, You sold out America though maybe a little, but you are one of those enemy's that our founding fathers warned us about when they state all enemy's foreign and domestic .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 4:00pm

    Captive Audience

    Cell service is a raw deal at this point. Exorbitant prices, low quality, unavoidable corporate and government surveillance.

    What's the answer? Mesh networks? Probably not, but it's time we consider other options. VOIP+Wi-fi or a mobile hotspot seems like a less intrusive option. Throw in a VPN if you desire a little more privacy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TruthHurts, 31 Oct 2014 @ 4:13pm

    Wireless Carriers need to be held to even stricter standards...

    They must needs be held to an even higher standard.

    ie - if they sell it, they must provide it, that means their infrastructure has to stay ahead of usage, not by restricting data flow, but by keeping at least a 50% margin over regional usage, with the ability to boost capacity at a moment's notice for events.

    If the carriers do not do that, then they have to provide discounts @ 100x whatever data rate they don't provide.

    supposed to provide 1Gb/S unlimited @ 50.00 a month, and only provide .5Gb/S, then they pay the customer 2500.00 for not providing the service contracted for that month.

    Make it absolutely painful for the provider to not fulfill their contractual obligations.

    The amount they pay to the customer is also paid to the FCC for violating their terms of agreement, so it's a double whammy.

    Make them keep a current, to the minute status counter, on their web site's front page, taking up prime real estate to track all the fines they've had to pay so that customers will know how good/bad their service is.

    Do the same for internet service providers as well.

    Demand absolute net neutrality with 5000x fines for any traffic shaping or bending.
    Demand that service interuptions count as bandwidth reductions that will be fined and paid out to the customers for not meeting obligations of their contract.

    Again, make it fiscally painful for them not meet their contract terms so they are forced to innovate and expand their infrastructure to stay ahead.

    It's the only way to be sure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      spankydoesdallas (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 10:45pm

      Re: Wireless Carriers need to be held to even stricter standards...

      Worked (more or less) in the airline industry...hefty fines for bait-and-switch advertising...government published statistics for on-time behavior...increased refunds and paybacks to consumers who were delayed by airlines...and, increased refunds and paybacks for consumer where airlines failed to honor their contractual obligations to the consumer flyer. Any hope the FAA can help the FCC find their bal*s?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 5:12pm

    What's that? You don't want to be treated like all the other ISPs?

    Then don't offer internet service.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2014 @ 5:59am

    This isn't surprising at all

    Keep in mind that Baker is paid to lie: it's her job. And she's quite good at it, as evidenced by her track record, so my guess is that she's well-paid for her talents.

    That's what spokespeople/PR flacks do: they lie. All of them, without exception. After all, if the goal was to tell the truth, they wouldn't have jobs, because anybody can handle that task. But it takes trained, practiced, smart professional liars to lie convincingly, to maintain that lie in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and to maintain the cognitive dissonance required to sell it.

    So: another day, another lie; nothing exceptional, just business as usual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lemgandi (profile), 1 Nov 2014 @ 7:22am

    Plus there's the Verizon scandal..

    Wired magazine says every packet you send through Verizon's cell network has a tracking number unique to you attached ( http://www.wired.com/2014/10/verizons-perma-cookie/ ). But heck, that's something only geeks would care about, right? Right??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 1 Nov 2014 @ 12:08pm

      Re: Plus there's the Verizon scandal..

      AT&T does this as well (using the same mechanism). I haven't had the chance to test other cell operators, but since many -- if not most -- small carriers are actually using the infrastructure of of those two to provide their service, it's fair to simply assume that all cell network traffic is tracked this way.

      The only way to block this is by either using HTTPS or a VPN. Privacy web extension such (NoScript, etc.) can't do a think about it.

      Personally, I simply avoid browsing the web over the cell network at all. You should only use the web over WiFi connections. I ensure this by using a firewall to block web traffic from flowing over the cell network.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 3 Nov 2014 @ 1:23am

    How stupid does CTIA think everyone is?

    They don't think anyone is stupid. They just believe they can say some nice words and buy themselves what they want (via lobbying/bribing). Has worked fine so far.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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