FCC Ignores The Will Of The Public, Votes To Begin Dismantling Net Neutrality

from the ignoring-the-will-of-the-people dept

Surprising absolutely nobody, the FCC today voted 2-1 along strict party lines to begin dismantling net neutrality protections for consumers. The move comes despite the fact that the vast majority of non-bot comments filed with the FCC support keeping the rules intact. And while FCC boss Ajit Pai has breathlessly insisted he intended to listen to the concerns of all parties involved, there has been zero indication that this was a serious commitment as he begins dismantling all manner of broadband consumer protections, not just net neutrality.

As you might have expected, the FCC was quick to release a statement claiming that gutting the popular consumer protections would usher forth a magical age of connectivity, investment, and innovation:

"In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC proposes to return to the bipartisan framework that preserved a flourishing free and open Internet for almost 20 years. First, the Notice proposes to reverse the FCC’s 2015 decision to impose heavy-handed Title II utility-style government regulation on Internet service providers (ISPs) and return to the longstanding, successful light-touch framework under Title I of the Communications Act."

Except as we just got done noting, the FCC's net neutrality rules already were 'light touch." The rules were relatively basic, the FCC has consistently shown zero interest in rate regulations, the rules didn't really cover zero rating, and numerous ISP executives have candidly and clearly stated the rules didn't harm them in the slightest. As we've also noted, the plan to shift ISPs back to Title I and an over-extended FTC is a plan that ends with less accountability and oversight of some of the least competitive companies in American industry as they move to grow even larger via media megamergers.

Anybody that believes consumers, competitors or the health of the internet benefits from giving Comcast additional leeway to abuse the lack of last-mile broadband competition is either intentionally trying to mislead you, or simply hasn't been paying attention.

What happens next? Again, net neutrality isn't technically dead yet. There will be another vote later this year, followed by inevitable lawsuits -- which supporters have a good chance of winning. Today, with the formal introduction of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) the FCC should soon re-open the agency's comment system, allowing you to share your thoughts on the killing of net neutrality. And while you might be inclined to think that your thoughts on this policy decision don't matter, these comments will come in handy in the inevitable looming legal fight to come.

You see, when Pai is inevitably sued by competitors and consumer advocates, he'll need to convince the courts that things have changed dramatically enough since the FCC's appeals court victory last year to warrant such a severe reversal in agency policy (they haven't). And these public comments, which again show massive public support for the rules, only make that job that much harder for Pai to claim the move was in the public's best interest.

As a former Verizon lawyer Pai knows this, and is launching an NPRM attack on the rules in partial hope that things never get that far. We've noted how ISPs (and all the politicians, think tankers, policy wonks and "consultants" paid to love them) are pushing for a new Congressional law on net neutrality. The sales pitch for this law is that it will "put the net neutrality debate to rest" as a "compromise." The reality you're supposed to ignore is that AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter lawyers will be the ones writing it, ensuring that the loophole-packed legislative "solution" is likely worse than having no net neutrality rules at all.

The short version? The battle for a healthy, open internet is far from over. And there will, sooner or later, be notable repercussions for any regulator and politician that thought ignoring the public interest on this subject was a good idea.

Filed Under: ajit pai, fcc, net neutrality

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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 May 2017 @ 2:09pm

    "I'll do it, just watch me!"

    Which would be about as effective as a child telling it's parents "If you don't give me what I want I'll hold my breath until you do!".

    Much like the parents in that example the ISP's are quite capable of dealing with a temporary blip in profits much easier than businesses can do without any transactions that involve the internet, people that use the internet to work are able to do without engaging in any work that isn't able to be done entirely offline and so on.

    Boycotting the ISP's differs significantly from boycotting say a bus service in that unlike the ISP's someone boycotting a particular business or service in other fields has alternatives.

    Refuse to use the public transit system? No a problem, you can walk, bike, set up ride-sharing, there are multiple ways you can still travel without using public transit. On the other hand, boycotting an ISP is, for many, boycotting the internet, and in a large number of cases there is no alternative. They either get their internet from the ISP you're telling them to boycott or they don't get internet.

    As pointed out by JoeCool, that's the problem. Boycotting isn't going to work in this case because it's not simply a matter of doing without one thing, the internet has become so interwoven and necessary for so many things that a boycott would require doing without for all of that, and that's simply not not feasible for many, which the ISP's know.

    There are other alternatives, increase competition being the chief one(which is why the current ISP's fight so hard to kill it before it can sprout), but 'boycott' simple isn't one of them, for a multitude of reasons.

    (If you still want to claim that it's quite possible to do, then here's your chance to demonstrate the strength of your convictions. Do without the internet entirely for at least a week. Don't use it personally, don't do business with any shop or store that uses it, if your job requires an internet connection refuse to engage in any work that requires any online use... Do without it in every conceivable way for a week, and then come back and tell us how that worked out for you.)

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