Studies

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
net neutrality, public, regulations, studies, support

Companies:
comcast, ncta



Cable Industry's Own Survey Shows Majority Support Net Neutrality Rules

from the when-push-polls-backfire dept

The broadband industry is continuing its brave campaign to convince the public that gutting all oversight of growing monopolies like Comcast somehow ends well for the American consumer and smaller Comcast competitors. Last week this involved the cable industry's top lobbying organization (the NCTA) working with the Daily Caller on a poll the industry clearly hoped would show that the public really hates net neutrality protections. The full survey of 2,194 Americans (pdf) uses omission and leading questions to nudge participants toward taking the view that net neutrality protections are "burdensome regulations" imposed by an out of control government.

But it didn't work out that way.

As it turns out, 61% of the survey participants said they support rules prohibiting giant ISPs like AT&T and Comcast from being able to use the lack of last-mile competition in broadband to their anti-competitive advantage:

Note, again, that just 18% truly oppose net neutrality rules, while 21% still somehow have no apparent idea what any of us have been talking about for the better part of the last decade. And while the results pretty clearly suggest that the majority of the public supports the rules (which previous data has already suggested), this being the post-truth era, ISP-funded think tank employees like the AEI's Roslyn Layton were quick to insist the survey somehow proved the exact opposite:

Layton, one of Trump's telecom advisors, not only intentionally misstates what the survey actually found -- but she pushes for Congress to proceed on a new net neutrality law. As we've noted numerous times, the FCC knows it may be on shaky legal footing as it tries to roll back the rules via FCC process, since the agency will need to show that the broadband market has changed substantially since the court upheld the rules last year. As such, large ISPs (and friends) are pushing for a new law to "settle" the issue once and for all. You're to ignore that AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Charter will be the ones writing it, ensuring it has so many loopholes as to be effectively useless.

The NCTA had only modestly better luck with other questions by forcing consumers to pigeon-hole their thoughts into arguably narrow silos. One question for example, asks "when it comes to the role of the federal government in regulating access to the Internet, which of the following comes closest to your view, even if none are exactly right?" Users were then forced to choose one of several narrow options, the majority answering that they thought it best that the government engage in a "light touch" approach to the internet where the government only acts if consumers are harmed:

So one, despite large ISP hand-wringing, we've noted time and time again that the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules weren't really particularly onerous. Indeed, for those who actually understand them, they clearly are "light touch." They specifically blocked themselves from making use of any of the more onerous provisions of Title II (and, no, they can't just ignore that "forbearance" process and change their minds). In fact, the rules didn't even ban ISPs from using arbitrary usage caps to hamstring competing services (aka "zero rating"), saying the FCC would only step in during obvious evidence of harm (precisely what the majority of the respondents indicated they wanted). And contrary to repeated ISP claims, the rules did not stifle investment.

Meanwhile, as Ars Technica was quick to point out, the question responses suggest the majority of the public generally approves of the FCC approach in more recent years:

"The problem with the "ability to set specific prices" and "take action if consumers are harmed" survey answers is that both of them accurately describe the current federal system. The FCC does have the ability to set specific Internet prices, but it doesn't do so and has no intentions of doing so. The FCC's 2015 net neutrality order did not set specific prices for home and mobile Internet service but used Title II authority to let consumers complain about prices and practices that are unjust or unreasonable. In other words, the FCC's current approach is to "monitor the marketplace and take action if consumers are harmed," the approach supported by the majority of people in the cable survey."

Despite ISPs ceaselessly whining that the FCC overreached when it comes to net neutrality, people need to understand that this is traditionally an agency -- under both parties -- that happily turns a blind eye to predatory duopoly behavior, especially as it pertains to limited competition and how that results in Americans paying significantly more money for broadband than their European counterparts. That the FCC was going to seriously wake up to these problems and begin fully holding these duopolies accountable has never truly been a worry -- even under recent FCC boss Tom Wheeler.

You'll recall the FCC's $300 million broadband map intentionally omitted including pricing data at ISP request (include it, and somebody might just realize the industry isn't competitive). The FCC (again, under both parties) has also long turned a blind eye to the use of usage caps and overage fees to levy tolls on these uncompetitive markets (and competitiors), and the use of misleading below-the-line fees to jack up the cost of service after users sign up at the advertised rate (read: false advertising). This is, "light touch" regulation by any definition. To a fault.

And, contrary to public wisdom and large ISP jargon, the FCC passing some fairly modest net neutrality rules -- and returning ISPs to common carriers under Title II so those rules could be adequately enforced (something you can technically thank Verizon for) -- doesn't mean that was going to change anytime soon.

It's important to understand that the majority of ISPs were okay with the lion's share of the FCC's net neutrality rules, given they gave ample leeway for things like zero rating, and only truly prohibited things most ISPs never intended to do anyway for fear of a PR backlash (blocking a single website or service, for example). The real fear among providers like Verizon is that the FCC might, under some future theoretical leadership, actually wake up and decide to use its authority granted by the Communications Act to do something about the lack of competition in the sector.

To thwart this theoretical and unlikely future, FCC boss Ajit Pai's current plan is to gut FCC authority over broadband and shovel it over to an over-extended, under-funded, and jurisdiction-limited FTC, where large ISPs know these problems will fall through the cracks. Most reasonable folks realize that until we somehow bring more competition to bear on the sector, we're likely going to need a bit more regulatory supervision than we might otherwise like for some of the least competitive toddlers in American industry. After all, even the cable industry's own survey says so.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 6:09am

    So you have 5 categories with 2 meaning people support neutrality overall, 1 neutral and 2 meaning people oppose net neutrality somehow. Because only the first category means full, unrestricted support they twist the poor lexicon and decide all the rest (including the middle, undecided/neutral category) means opposition.

    Desperation. They fear it will become toxic before it can be dismantled leading to politicians backing away from the subject. Pai isn't stupid, he knows people oppose this pile of crap he is proposing and that's why he's clinging to a few dozen foul mouthed comments.

    This is the time we strike with as much info, activism and action as possible.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 6:52am

      Re:

      "2 meaning people support neutrality overall, 1 neutral and 2 meaning people oppose net neutrality somehow"

      I'd argue against calling the last category neutral, since it includes people who admit they know nothing about the subject. They're not neutral, they just don't know what the question means. Which actually makes it worse, since they're saying that people who cannot form an informed opinion one way or another are actually opposing it.

      To create a silly analogy, in a survey about whether people prefer to drink a margarita or a virgin margarita, the people who said "what's a margarita?" are being touted as opposing tequila.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 7:10am

      Re:

      Did I see the tactic of asking do you want the government to regulate Internet content, so as to allow they to say that it should not regulate access. If the get their way they will do what the people did not want the government to do.

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

    • icon
      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 7:14am

      Re:

      So you have 5 categories with 2 meaning people support neutrality overall, 1 neutral and 2 meaning people oppose net neutrality somehow. Because only the first category means full, unrestricted support they twist the poor lexicon and decide all the rest (including the middle, undecided/neutral category) means opposition.

      Yes, whereas in reality more people don't know a damn thing about in than the total of people in any way opposed to it. And even if you assumed all the "don't know"s would be against net neutrality if they did, then the total would still barely top what probably amounts to the people who broadly support it but don't think it affects them too much. Reality is that the people who strongly support net neutrality significantly outnumber the total of people who even faintly think it's a bad idea.

      As for the "light touch" nonsense; just look at those categories! If you're in favour, you have the option of "light touch" or "full-on price control". Who the hell thinks the Government should be in the business of directly setting prices or writing terms and conditions?? That's not how regulation works anyway. Talk about a huge middle-ground uncovered! Think that has to be one of the most dishonest questions I've ever seen on a survey.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 7:30am

        Re: Re:

        "Who the hell thinks the Government should be in the business of directly setting prices or writing terms and conditions?"

        I saw him in a movie once, quite appropriately needed a brain. They love their straw, don't they?

        Sadly, this thing seems to work. I see the same rubbish during US healthcare arguments - you either let corporations run everything with minimal intervention or you need the government to sign off on everything your doctor ever does, including making life or death decisions. The facts that nobody actually supports the latter nor is it evident in any country with existing socialised medicine is irrelevant to the argument somehow.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 9:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "run everything with minimal intervention or you need the government to sign off on everything your doctor ever does"

          I read about this one extreme or the other in posts quite a bit on this site and I don't get it. As a centrist on this issue; I would think we would expend resourced to address the root cause, not treat the symptoms. It appears to me, and this is my personal opinion; The reason we need net neutrality is because of monopolies. I feel like the Government first made the problem, and is now trying to regulate it. I'm not saying we turn the internet into the wild west, as in no regulation at all, that's ridiculous, you need some regulation for sure to maintain order. But the need for heavy handed regulation in any capacity would be significantly reduced if we allowed the free market to do what it does best. Compete.

          I guess I'm starting to wonder if we would have better luck removing the monopoly protections than trying to regulate them as they seem to have enough money to change the game at a whim.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 10:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            >guess I'm starting to wonder if we would have better luck removing the monopoly protections than trying to regulate them as they seem to have enough money to change the game at a whim.

            Thwe final mile infrastructure is the most expensive part of the system, and needs to connect to the Internet backbone as well. Further I assume you want some control exercised over the placement of ducts, poles and cabinets.

            In practice in most of the rest of the world, infrastructure is a regulated monopoly, which has to rent its use to competing Internet Service providers, and the price of that rental is also regulated to prevent it being used to force competitors out off the market.

            Alternatively, Net Neutrality rules, which is the same as phone rules, to ensure that customers can use whatever services they want, just like they can ring any number they want.

            T

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 10:43am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "In practice in most of the rest of the world, infrastructure is a regulated monopoly, which has to rent its use to competing Internet Service providers, and the price of that rental is also regulated to prevent it being used to force competitors out off the market."

              Exactly my point. Why not fix our system to more closely match what you've described instead of giving specific companies total monopolies? You would still need regulation, but not the spiderweb of crazy we have now. If the companies had to truly compete, part of the problem would solve itself no?

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2017 @ 9:16am

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

                That would put it in the category 12 % agrees with and thus really get you an uphill battle. Particularly against the "big government=bad"-crowds and the people who don't have time for researching such a fringe issue. I don't see many politicians daring to go there.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 10:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I think people see net neutrality as the way, right now, that we can do something about the monopolistic situation. Removing monopoly protections should also happen, but is further off.

            "Government made the problem and now Government is trying to regulate it" presumes all government action is the action of one entity. More accurately, one group used government to put processes into place that benefit them, and another group is trying to use government to remove them. Government isn't the actor, it's the method.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2017 @ 6:54am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Government isn't the actor, it's the method."

              Sorry for the delay in replying, but I needed to think about this one a bit. I concluded that again I completely agree. Government is indeed the "method". Depending on which party gets into office, determines who and how the method is applied. I get that, I don't like it, but I get it.

              It's the application of the method that I'm confused with. We have thousands of laws on the books that don't change with the change of the administration. Yet the "method" seems to be applied, by both sides, as a weapon when there is a major party change in office to specific partisan policies and laws. In most cases, it becomes somewhat of a battle cry that propels even highly unqualified politicians right into seats of power. Now; I'm not saying don't make laws because they can just be repealed. I'm saying when you start a law or policy out as partisan, and cram it down the other sides throat, how can we honestly expect these types of things not to happen?

              If the first thing the opposing party does when they take office is dismantle the other teams partisan policies, perhaps were using the "method" incorrectly? In the interest in actually getting something done that stays done, perhaps a new way of thinking is required? Or even perhaps a new method? The whole thing just seems so inefficient and wasteful to me.

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

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 10:27am

        Re: Re:

        I'm pretty sure the govt can butt in if needed. Think things like Shkreli and that insane price increase he imposed on meds. Here the Government didn't directly set the prices but they broke some patents when the Pharma got too greedy.

        If you ask people "should govt fix prices?" you'll get one answer but "should govt take measures to prevent price abuse when concerning life-saving drugs?" you'll get the exact opposite reaction.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 6:51am

    So you have 5 categories with 2 meaning people support neutrality overall, 1 neutral and 2 meaning people oppose net neutrality somehow.

    They don't mean that people support/oppose net neutrality, they mean they support/oppose it as defined in the survey. Or as left undefined, because they describe the intended effect of the rules rather than the rules themselves.

    (The normal definition of Net Neutrality, I thought, was the concept that the ISP doesn't descriminate by traffic type/destination/etc.--i.e., net neutrality is not "rules", but an effect of mandated or non-mandated ISP policy.)

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

  • icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 7:03am

    Under a Rock

    What percent of the "Don't Know" folks would have an opinion if we were talking about a utility they better understood? These surveys should try to gauge support for consumer protections instead of leaving the results at "it's too complicated for a fifth of respondents".

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

    • icon
      legalcon (profile), 17 May 2017 @ 12:26am

      Re: Under a Rock

      C'mon, knowledge is irrelevant. Take a tip from the OP: just believe whatever some comedian tells you. at worst you can spend your days writing about how corporations are so evil b/c profit and the consumer and monopoly and RESISTANCE

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

  • icon
    Richard Bennett (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 11:35am

    Lack of understanding

    The Obama Internet regulations have two glaring problems: Title II authority and the undefined "Internet conduct standard". Hence, it's deceptive to claim that all the Order did was ban blocking, throttling, and preferential treatment.

    Title II is especially problematic in the interconnection context, which is why many edge providers - such as Google and Netflix - don't want their interconnection agreements to be subject to Title II.

    Please correct the factual errors in your story.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 11:59am

      Re: Lack of understanding

      Funny thing about your argument, it was a fight between the ISP's'and Netflix which triggered the order.

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

      • icon
        orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 2:18pm

        Re: Re: Lack of understanding

        The other funny thing was that peering was never an issue and largely free until providers with consumer ISP divisions started playing their little games.

        And then another tier 1 provider was allowed to be eaten by an ISP. That's growth and progress, right?

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

      • icon
        legalcon (profile), 17 May 2017 @ 12:22am

        Re: Re: Lack of understanding

        False, fake news. This was a fight between GREED, GOODNESS, THE POWERFUL, LITTLE CUTE PUPPIES, AND ISIS. Seriously, ISIS opposes NN, what are you a terrorist?

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 2:22pm

    This is, "light touch" regulation by any definition. To a fault.

    "Light touch" in the sense of someone breathes a mile away and the kid in the back of the car starts screaming, "He's touching me, he's touching meeee!"


    Also, lolwth? https://twitter.com/AjitPaiFCC/status/864209710639177728

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


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