Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
fcc, jessica rosenworcel, tom wheeler



FCC's Wheeler May Need To Stick Around If He Doesn't Want His Legacy Demolished

from the rock-and-a-hard-place dept

So we've talked a lot over the years about how few people expected much from FCC boss Tom Wheeler, given his history lobbying for the wireless and cable industries. But amazingly enough, Wheeler wound up being one of the most consumer, small business, and competition-friendly bosses in FCC history (not that this is saying much). He passed net neutrality rules, new broadband privacy protections, raised the definition of broadband to 25 Mbps (to highlight a lack of competition at higher speeds), and more. In short, he wasn't the dingo many thought him to be.

Now, with an incoming Trump administration making it very clear in public comments the goal is to kill net neutrality and gut the FCC as consumer broadband watchdog, the lion's share of Wheeler's efforts are poised to be demolished.

This puts Wheeler in a notably prickly predicament. Wheeler's term technically extends until 2018, but under FCC rules he would be downgraded from Chairman to just vanilla commissioner should he stay on. If Wheeler leaves, the current FCC would face an immediate 2-1 Republican advantage. If he stays, the FCC remains with an even partisan 2-2 split, with Wheeler and Mignon Clyburn on one side, and Ajit Pai and Mike O'Rielly on the other -- at least until a new FCC boss is appointed to round out the five-person FCC leadership.

Senate confirmation could take a large chunk of 2017, delaying any substantive policy changes. But if Wheeler chooses to leave, the 2-1 voting advantage would allow those looking to eliminate net neutrality and other recent FCC initiatives a running head start. Wheeler's predicament is thanks, in part, to the GOP refusing to renew current FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to another term, something leaders originally promised they'd do -- then backed away from realizing they might have an advantage. Wheeler tried to force the issue last week when he said he'd resign immediately if Rosenworcel was reappointed to a new term.

But Republicans refused to make any such deal hoping to gain the early advantage:
"Republicans previously said they would not reconfirm Rosenworcel unless Wheeler resigned, because one Democrat must exit the FCC to let President-elect Donald Trump appoint a new Republican and give his party a 3-2 majority. But by the time Wheeler promised to do so, Republicans had other ideas. There wasn't enough time left in the Senate's session to handle Rosenworcel's confirmation, Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said. Other Republicans supported taking no action on Rosenworcel because they hope both she and Wheeler will leave and give Republicans an immediate 2-1 majority."
In an ideal world, partisan pattycake wouldn't dictate important technological issues of the age. Especially since issues like net neutrality actually have broad bipartisan support, and are only shoehorned into the mold of partisan politics because they operate in a dysfunctional vacuum. Ensuring that there's broadband competition (and by proxy cheaper, better service) enjoys similar bipartisan support among consumers. As does not letting incumbent ISPs write harmful protectionist state legislation solely to protect incumbent revenues from competition.

None of this is probably a particularly enjoyable position for the 70-year-old Wheeler to inhabit. Instead of enjoying his retirement, Wheeler faces being forced to stick around if he doesn't want four years of hard work dismantled. And even if he does stick around, he'll inevitably find himself at the mercy of a 3-2 minority position anyway, one where he'll spend four years losing an endless series of 3-2 votes that carefully chip away at everything he fought for. In short, the recovering dingo is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't -- music to the ears of those looking to strip away neutrality and other consumer protections.

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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 14 Dec 2016 @ 8:34am

    "... under FCC rules he would be downgraded from Chairman to just vanilla commissioner should he stay on."

    Legacy-preservation aside, this noble act would position him as the Anti-Pai. He'd take a bruising, but martyrdom in the name of neutralizing that corrupt shill would be meritorious service.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 9:25am

    Ciao Wheeler...

    You were not the dingo we though you were going to be, which is a good thing.... but the FCC needs to disappear. It's own history is the cause of all of this mess!

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 14 Dec 2016 @ 9:33am

      Re:

      It's own history of pretending not to exist you mean? And then after it blips and shows signs of life you say it should disappear instead of follow the trend? Really?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 10:30am

        Re: Re:

        Yes really!

        You are right most of the time the FCC did pretend that it did not exist. When they took action, it usually benefits the Industry Overlords instead of the pissant peasants they were installed to look out for.

        The going trend for every government agency is, get installed, thank the stupid citizens they duped into creating them. The first order of business for just about every government has been to find a way to remove the will of the people by taking away their chair at the table by assuming that they are that very chair!

        Of course corrupt as ever congress was already cock blocking the efforts that Wheeler had going. While I do not like the new rules at all, I admit that they were still better than the existing bullshit already.

        If some master stroke of luck happened, which I do not expect in the least, the demise of the FCC might in some whacko world get the attention put back on congress where it should be... but since the people still love their corruption by keeping these fucks in power... all I can hope for now is that other agencies take notice and stop the fuckery and actually for once in their fucking existences work on behalf of the people instead of pandering to the industries while offering pseudo concern to the consumers.

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

        • icon
          Frozen Njal (profile), 15 Dec 2016 @ 4:04am

          Re: Re: Re:

          All these anti-FCC arguments basically boil down to: "murders and robberies still happen despite being clamped down on recently, so let's disband the police force!"

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

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 14 Dec 2016 @ 9:54am

      Re:

      This must be a history I've never heard of. Did you learn it at Drumpf University?

      Aside, I would feel bad for Wheeler if he stayed on (but I would feel good). Talk about waking up and having to go to work everyday in that environment, ugh!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 10:00am

        Re: Re:

        Oh look! A poor pissed off lefty about Drumpf getting elected.

        You are mistaken that I like Trump, or his plans for the FCC with the sole exception of its destruction.

        The history is there, if you could just get around to reading it... but so sorry that your political overlords have already told you what to think and you cannot be bothered to learn for yourself like most other faux Americans.

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

        • identicon
          schism00, 14 Dec 2016 @ 10:37am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I am absolutely a pissed-off lefty that Drumpf won, and there are millions of us, but that aside, please enlighten us why getting rid of the FCC is a good thing.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 10:45am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            As I said, the entire history of the FCC created this mess, did you not read that part? This expects you to go and learn for yourself... there just is not enough room to post all the problems but here are some snippets.

            The FCC helped created and or establish the little telco fiefdoms that exist.

            They agreed that they should allow natural monopolies.

            They directly put in the zero rating loop hole, which I believe was intentional, not accidental.

            They have not classified the providers as title two utilities companies or at least some form of it.

            They have throughout history served the businesses far more than the consumers very willingly and openly.

            And the FCC is not the only agency to blame here... the FTC could have hammered several of them on their false advertising of bandwidth limits and speeds.

            The companies have been forever lying about rates, tacking on strange and hard to explain charges and even play middle man to internation gouging/billing tricks where a person connects to CNN in a different country and gets a fucking multi thousand dollar bill.

            This fucking insanity has to stop and the FCC nor the FTC and sure as fuck not congress or big mouth Obama has done shit about it. They are sitting there and laughing at us for the fucking idiots we so clearly are! They pay a little lip service and everyone just drops their fucking panties like little teens running after bieber!

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

            • identicon
              Thad, 14 Dec 2016 @ 11:10am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              there just is not enough room to post all the problems

              Yes, we wouldn't want the Internet to run out of space.

              This fucking insanity has to stop and the FCC nor the FTC and sure as fuck not congress or big mouth Obama has done shit about it.

              Your complaints about the government's complicity in telecom monopolies are sound, but your suggestion that things will be somehow better if the FCC switches from not regulating enough to not existing at all is baffling.

              How do you propose to decrease the monopoly behavior by the telecoms without an FCC? I'm not asking for a list of examples of the FCC not doing its job; we're on the same page as far as that goes. I'm asking what your proposed fix is. What, in your mind, will abolishing the FCC do to accomplish increased telecom competition and more respect for consumer rights?

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 11:26am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "but your suggestion that things will be somehow better if the FCC switches from not regulating enough to not existing at all is baffling."

                I am not saying that destroying the FCC is going to make anything better. I am saying that they have failed to much to not destroy them and that they have proven to work against the very interests they were created to serve.

                "How do you propose to decrease the monopoly behavior by the telecoms without an FCC?"

                Congress exists for a reason. Yes... I know people ignore them, but they are more important than the fucking Presidential elections.

                Proposed fix...

                Destroy FCC and every rule it created.

                Create new Agency... call it the fucking "whatever maybe we new folks will do something the old didn't and pray to hamsters" agency for all I care.

                Institute anti-monopoly and anti-trust ONLY rules. Tied the agencies funding directly to performance.

                Create a complaint process where citizens can directly log problems and when a certain threshold is announced an investigation is started and funding for that investigation is authorized.

                The business that has hit the threshold of complaints they get a huge scope shoved up its ass. If foul play is discovered they do NOT get fined, they instead refund 100% of the customers previous bills to as far back as the situation can be reasonably traced, minus taxes cause Uncle SAM always gets his.

                That would be a grand fucking start!

                The reason for destroying the FCC is really for nothing more than to send a statement to agencies that they could be next if they play it like the FCC did. Will that work? Hell, who knows some people are just too fucking rich and power to give a damn!

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 1:20pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  The problem with this is that you're dealing with a Republican-run Congress -- which means they have no intention of setting up a new agency or commission should they dismantle the FCC.

                  The big problem here goes all the way back to Carter: congressional aide funding has been gutted, which means that congresspeople can no longer afford to hire the staffers needed to review policy and draft laws. So instead, they leave the research and drafting to lobbyists (ever since that loophole was intentionally opened up), meaning that all the decisions that used to be made by partisan or sometimes bipartisan representatives is now done by private interests. This change suspiciously lines up with the inability for the House to actually decide when it comes to most topics that aren't being pushed by powerful lobby groups, and partisan entrenchment on topics that aren't lobbied on both sides of the political spectrum.

                  Why is this? Because the congressional representatives have no clue about most topics, and so are unable to intelligently argue for/against them in the House. This is the downside of using lobbyists to do your research and write your bills -- no in-house intelligence exists to convince others to follow your lead, and THEY don't have the staff to investigate if what you're saying makes sense, even if it did.

                  And this is the mess of a system you're telling to do their job. They can't do a thing until given the resources, and THAT isn't going to happen on a Republican watch.

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

                • icon
                  Ninja (profile), 15 Dec 2016 @ 3:24am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  So, destroy the FCC then create a new FCC that will surely work this time because we honestly mean it.

                  Yep, it will magically work.

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

                • icon
                  Frozen Njal (profile), 15 Dec 2016 @ 4:08am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Isn't it more often Republican-led states where the telcos write statutes limiting competition?

                  Even if it isn't, how do you expect to force various states to open up competition without a federal agency? Destroying it and maybe maybe Antigua-definitely-maybe creating a new one is just pulling down the henhouses for the foxes.

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

        • identicon
          Baron von Robber, 15 Dec 2016 @ 1:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Put up or shut up, snowflake.

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

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 16 Dec 2016 @ 2:25am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There are conservatives who can't abide Trump. I'm one of them. Turns out you can't split the world between "left" or "right" based on which Glorious Leader they kowtow to.

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 14 Dec 2016 @ 11:03am

      Re:

      Is there more than one of you, or are you just one guy who shows up in the comments thread for every single FCC story to say that the FCC hasn't done enough and therefore it should be eliminated?

      Because dude, that is not sound reasoning.

      If an agency is not doing enough, then the remedy to that problem is for it to do more, not even less.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 11:35am

        Re: Re:

        "Because dude, that is not sound reasoning."

        When you have been insane for the majority of your time... the first sane person that shows up in your life will seem like a raving looney.

        Like Syndrome said in the Incredibles... "When everyone is super, no one will be!"

        You like so many other here have existed in this "regulatory" mental prison that you lack the ability to see any reason that might exist beyond it. You are scared of the unknown because you have never experience anything close to a free market.

        Like a child leaving home for the first time!

        You tell me what is insane?
        Relying on a agency that created the problem to solve it, or finding another way?

        Like it or not, Trump became president because of stupid shit like this and you want to KEEP IT AROUND? People DIRECTLY feel that the Government is doing jack shit, so the anything but this comes out to play! And there is no telling if Trump will actually help or wreck the place.

        So in my book, the real insanity is continuing to do the same damn thing but expecting different results! THAT my friend is the insanity going on here!

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 1:25pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          > You are scared of the unknown because you have never experience anything close to a free market.

          Ever been to Russia? For a few short years after the fall of the USSR, they had a free market. That market held much promise, until those who rose to the top gained the power to limit it. This is ALWAYS the way of the free market. It only stays free long enough for someone to accumulate power and then remove the freedoms from the market. This has happened for millennia.

          Sure, you can remove the safety nets when you see they're damaged, but it's probably not a good idea to do so right in the middle of a performance by an extremely inexperienced tightrope walker.

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

        • icon
          Frozen Njal (profile), 15 Dec 2016 @ 4:13am

          Re: Re: Re:

          So why do the Republicans keep overpaying for such an inept, bloated military?

          Even Russia is way more effective. They at least have made territorial gains and helped influence their countries of choice. You can't even win wars (let alone peace) in third-world countries.

          So many of your daft anti-regulatory arguments could be applied to so many other things. Why bother regulating nuclear power stations or clean water or vehicle safety or air passenger safety? Or monopolies... oh wait, that costs the oligarchs money, better regulate that to the hilt. Women's bodies? Foreigners? Likewise, unless they do the dirty work for slave wages.

          Hell, why not take away regulations against not paying your workers, or minimum ages or something. Get your slaves young.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 11:00am

    Do you understand why the FCC exists in the first place? How exactly do you expect frequency spectrums to be regulated so entities don't step all over each other? Would you like to fly in a plane that had no regulation regarding communications as it flew across America? Knee-jerk reactions are not helpful.

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

    • icon
      Frozen Njal (profile), 15 Dec 2016 @ 4:14am

      Re:

      Oh, they'll keep the bit that allows them to control the spectrum. They definitely don't want the average guy to be able to encroach on that. But regulate their excesses? Nae chance!

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


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