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Verizon CEO Pushing Congress For 'Bipartisan' Consensus That Government Should Never, Ever Stand Up To Broadband Duopolists

from the you-do-it-to-yourself dept

As part of a last ditch effort to derail the FCC's net neutrality rules, you might recall that Senator John Thune and Representative Fred Upton earlier this year pushed an amendment to the Communications Act that they professed would codify net neutrality into law as part of a "bipartisan" proposal crafted after a painstaking public conversation. What the ISP-dictated amendment actually did was effectively gut FCC authority, pushing forth net neutrality rules significantly weaker than the already-flimsy 2010 rules Verizon sued to overturn.

Thune, Upton and the mega ISPs hoped their effort would go something like this: table some incredibly weak net neutrality rules under the pretense of consumer welfare, make a few minor concessions, then pass a still-flimsy amendment that would have killed the Title II push in the cradle. The problem is that most neutrality supporters in Congress saw this fairly-shallow ploy for what it was (or at the very least feared the wrath of a SOPA-fueled internet grassroots community). As such, Thune and Upton have had trouble getting neutrality supporters to sign off on the idea -- especially without the help of fellow Senate Commerce Committee member Bill Nelson:
"On Wednesday, (Nelson) reiterated what he's been saying for weeks: That he's open to working with Republicans on a "truly bipartisan" bill aimed at preventing Internet providers from speeding up, slowing down or blocking Web sites. But he'll only cooperate, he said, "provided such action fully protects consumers, does not undercut the FCC's role and leaves the agency with flexible, forward-looking authority to respond to the changes in this dynamic broadband marketplace."
Except that's not happening, because a flexible, empowered FCC is precisely what Thune and friends don't want.

Enter Verizon, who like AT&T and Comcast, has been desperately trying to gut FCC authority for years (and had been succeeding until recently). While Verizon did sue to overturn the 2010 rules, it wasn't the rules themselves the telco was taking aim at (after all, it co-wrote them, and the rules had the full support of companies like AT&T and Comcast). Verizon hoped a legal win would not only gut the rules, but also FCC authority moving forward. That backfired spectacularly, given the FCC only shifted to Title II after Verizon's lawsuits repeatedly showed you can't regulate ISPs like common carriers -- without first declaring they're common carriers. The entire shift to title II is, quite literally, thanks to Verizon.

Fast forward to this week, and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam fired off a letter to Thune, Upton and the other leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees (pdf), urging Congress to take the reins and punish the FCC for standing up to wealthy broadband companies begin updating "outdated and broken" telecom law. To hear Verizon's version of history, everything was going great until the FCC came along and decided to destroy the Internet:
"The broadband and mobile markets are America's greatest ongoing success stories: 20 years of bipartisan light-touch policy consensus has led to more than $1.2 trillion in private investment, resulting in a transition from 128 kilobit dial-up connections and analog wireless voice networks in the late 1990's to today's near-ubiquitous 4G mobile data coverage and fixed broadband networks capable of streaming simultaneous HD movies. The FCC claimed it was addressing concerns about an open Internet, something that Congress could and can - address with clarity and finality in a two-page bipartisan bill. Instead, the FCC went far beyond open Internet rules, engaging in a radical and risky experiment to change the very policy that resulted in the United States leading the world in the Internet economy."
Like Thune and Upton, McAdam continues to bandy around the word "bipartisan" when what they're actually pushing is anything but. In short, Verizon wants the FCC's authority gutted and all policy making moving forward under the authority of a Congress slathered in telco lobbying cash. Not only does McAdam want Congress to push flimsy net neutrality rules, Verizon is pushing hard for a total rewrite of the 1996 Telecom Act -- because the Title II rules Verizon's successfully used to build a massive wireless empire are "outdated and broken":
"At its root, these are all symptoms of a problem: the existing legal regime and its accompanying regulatory processes are outdated and broken. Congress last established a clear policy framework almost 20 years ago, well before most of today's technology was even developed. As a result, regulators are applying early 20th century tools to highly dynamic 21st century markets and technologies. Inefficiencies and collateral damage are inevitable. It is time for Congress to re-take responsibility for policymaking in the Internet ecosystem."
And by "take responsibility," Verizon actually means it's time for Congress to take Verizon campaign contribution cash and write new laws ensuring that broadband industry regulators have the strength of babies, the freedom and authority of an asylum inmate, and the budget of a high-school prom committee.

The real irony of course is that regulators wouldn't keep intervening in Verizon's market if the telco didn't consistently engage in behavior that made it necessary. Again, the FCC only shifted to Title II after Verizon sued to overturn its 2010, industry-friendly net neutrality rules. Similarly, the entire net neutrality conversation wouldn't be happening if Verizon didn't have a long, proud history of trying to block every technological innovation it deemed a threat. If Verizon's honestly looking to affix blame for the regulatory policy chaos of the last few years, it doesn't have to look very far.

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  • icon
    gorehound (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 10:49am

    Which Telco would be the best one to use at this point I wonder.I need to finally dump Verizon and will.I have looked at using google but only end up on many sites with conflicting type info.

    Time for Techdirt maybe to do a short News piece on who would be best to use for a Cell Phone.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 11:31am

      Re:

      "Time for Techdirt maybe to do a short News piece on who would be best to use for a Cell Phone."

      The best deals are usually the small, local companies. Like Cricket, before that cellular telephone provider was recently bought out by AT&T.

      It's a problem I've run into quite often: any small, local company that offers a great service will usually get bought out (swallowed up by a mega-corporation) sooner or later, leaving customers with fewer choices -- and hence higher prices and worse service.

      Sometimes I wonder if every company's ultimate goal is to be bought out (and in many cases simply shut down), since it seems that just about every small successful company ends up that way.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 12:20pm

      Re:

      Possibly the most important factor is coverage, can you get the service at all the places you want cell phone coverage.

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

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 12:27pm

      Re:

      That's the problem. Because they own so much of the nation's spectrum and dominate the special access market, AT&T and Verizon generally offer the best coverage and service, though T-Mobile is slowly but surely catching up.

      I'm loathe to give Verizon my money, but I need a service where I can tether my phone for use as a modem in a lot of out-of-the-way locations, and I've found T-Mobile, even though I support their pro-consumer policies, isn't quite up to snuff yet.

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

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 12:27pm

      Re:

      That's the problem. Because they own so much of the nation's spectrum and dominate the special access market, AT&T and Verizon generally offer the best coverage and service, though T-Mobile is slowly but surely catching up.

      I'm loathe to give Verizon my money, but I need a service where I can tether my phone for use as a modem in a lot of out-of-the-way locations, and I've found T-Mobile, even though I support their pro-consumer policies, isn't quite up to snuff yet.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 11:36am

    Reworking the Rules Would be a Good Idea

    I completely agree that the rules governing broadband internet access should be completely renovated. How about as a condition of using right-of-ways or licensing spectrum all wires/spectrum controlled by a private entity must be sub-licensed to third party internet providers for a fair non-discriminatory price based on the actual cost of developing and maintaining the network. Then we could expand on that and forbid the network operator (the one who owned the wires/spectrum) from marketing or selling directly to end users (maybe with some exceptions for large B2B installations). Next we could forbid an internet provider from being owned or controlled by a "content producer". Finally we could mandate that all network operators must treat all network traffic identically.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 12:14pm

    Verizon's CEO should be ashamed

    He should be ashamed for not having to vision to make his letter much more general and focusing merely on his own immediate needs.

    How about getting congress to simply remove all government control of companies so that there will be no limits to how outrageously they can behave. Since their greed knows no bounds, it would be pretty entertaining to see how far they might go.

    The immediate reaction is that everyone would soon be paying outrageous prices for substandard service. But it wouldn't stop there.

    Next would come safety? Safety? Who needs that? Maybe you can pay an extra premium if you want safe drinking water. But later it might simply be easier to eliminate that premium option altogether (except for some people). And food safety? If you don't like it, then don't eat it! Why should the government interfere. And why should you get to know the secret ingredients in your food? And nutrition info? It's good for (our stockholders) and you. So just eat it already.

    Why is Verizon's vision so limited when it comes to removing government regulation in order to allow outrageous behavior by business?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 12:59pm

      Re: Verizon's CEO should be ashamed

      "How about getting congress to simply remove all government control of companies so that there will be no limits to how outrageously they can behave."

      You can do this, you just need to rename your company to "bank of ..."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 12:25pm

    This is what boggles me about these people that argue that government regulation is inherently evil. They forget why the government stepped in to regulate things in the first place. It was the consequences of bad corporate actors abusing their power that lead to the creation of the regulations not an evil government punishing businesses for lulz.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 1:14pm

    One duopoly trying to get another duopoly on its side.

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

  • identicon
    Zonker, 31 Mar 2015 @ 4:18pm

    Verizon: "Instead, the FCC went far beyond open Internet rules, engaging in a radical and risky experiment to change the very policy that resulted in the United States leading the world in the Internet economy."
    If by "Internet economy" you mean highest priced ISPs, Verizon would probably be correct. When it comes to Internet speeds however, we are number seventeen in the world. Yay! We're #17! We rock!

    Source: The Consumerist/Akamai

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 10:19pm

    It doesn't get much more bipartisan than the FCC's new Title II classification. Over 1 million Americans wrote the FCC demanding Title II classification.

    That's even more than bipartisan. I believe that makes Title II classification multi-million partisan. It's blowing bipartisan out the water!

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


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