Senator Doesn't Buy FCC Justification For Killing Popular Net Neutrality Protections

from the repetition-forges-reality dept

So we've noted for years now how incumbent ISPs love to breathlessly insist that net neutrality protections "stifled broadband industry investment," despite the fact that publicly-available SEC filings, earnings reports, and the ISPs' own public statements on this subject have repeatedly proven this claim false. Traditionally, large ISPs like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter have employed industry-friendly economists to massage and cherry pick the data until it looks like a slowdown occurred. But every few months or so a journalist will painstakingly document how this slowdown claim is complete and total bullshit.

But this being the broadband industry, and lobbyists being lobbyists, the repeated debunking of their claims never seems to matter. In large part because they know that if they repeat this claim often enough, repetition will forge reality in the minds of people who don't know any better. That's why, several times a week for years, you'll see either editorials like this one by Montana State Senator Doug Kary or claims from organizations that pretend not to take money from the telecom industry, insisting that net neutrality rained all over their investment parade.

Ajit Pai once again trotted out this bogus claim during a hearing last week before the Senate Commerce Committee, a move that appeared to annoy Senator Ed Markey:

"Markey asked Pai what problem he is trying to fix by repealing net neutrality rules. Pai responded, "One of the concerns we have raised is these regulations might be dampening infrastructure investment."

"They might be, but there's no evidence of it," Markey fired back.

Pai continued, saying, "There has been evidence raised, and that is part of the reason why we are testing this proposition... we wanted to test this proposition in an open and public process."

Pai continues to pretend that he has an open mind and is "just testing stuff out," and not grotesquely dismantling popular consumer protections to the sole benefit of a handful of telecom and media conglomerates. And again, we appear to be stuck in a game of existential patty cake, where people pushing an agenda friendly to these duopolists hope repetition forges reality. Even though major ISP executives have made numerous public statements acknowledging this is all a bluff. Wyden was also quick to highlight these ISPs have never once informed investors of this apparent problem, as required by law:

"Publicly traded companies are required by law to provide investors accurate financial information, including reporting any risks or financial burdens. However, I have found no publicly traded ISP that has reported to its investors by law that Title II has negatively impacted investment in their networks. Many, in fact, have increased deployment and investment."

Wyden also was quickly to highlight that absent this bogus claim about sagging investment, there's really no sensible justification for killing net neutrality rules:

"I feel that the evidence [to repeal the rules] right now is not there and if it was, the broadband companies themselves would have in fact been providing that evidence to their investors in their filings, and they have not done so. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence. There is no factual basis for that change [proposed by the FCC]."

We all know (or should know by now) that Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter want the rules dead simply so they can make more money. They know that with neither organic market competition nor functional regulatory oversight they'll have a green light to abuse this lack of competition in a rotating array of obnoxious and creative new ways. Of course they can't just admit this or they'd be laughed out of town, so we get to instead engage in this endless, idiotic game of "is not, is too," while they pretend removing oversight of some of the most anti-competitive companies in America is somehow economically essential.


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  • icon
    TKnarr (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 11:59am

    Hearings

    I think what Senator Wyden needs to do is to call for open hearings to "fully document the problems Title II classification has created for the broadband industry and to provide a solid foundation for the FCC's rules changes". Don't phrase it as trying to cut Pai off at the knees, phrase it as if you're trying to get the evidence he claims is there completely and clearly in the record.

    Then when the broadband people are done saying how it's hampered their investment in expansion and upgrades, pull out their own statements to investors and read out the relevant sections with the text projected clearly. Ask them whether, given the discrepancies, they've lied to investors about their business situation and plans or not and to provide good reason why this matter should not be referred to the SEC for prosecution. Don't involve the FCC here at all, just use the results the next time he tries to trot out his "hurt investments" line to counter him with "But the broadband companies themselves said before Congress that it didn't hamper their plans at all.".

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Hearings

      Sounds good on the surface, but when has the SEC or FTC actually done anything in the interest of consumers (other than very light slaps on the wrist)? Wall Street surely doesn't want anyone looking too closely at their practices either. They will collectively push their (not out) representatives to not allow what you suggest.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 12:44pm

        Re: Re: Hearings

        "Sounds good on the surface, but when has the SEC or FTC actually done anything in the interest of consumers"

        Why should they? Government has learned to gain power through failure.

        Put in anti-trust/monopoly laws to protect the market from businesses creating monopolies and oligopolies. "Fail" to enforce those laws and the people ask for more regulation. Bingo! Permission to directly take control. Now lawmakers are in the zone. They don't even have to attempt a shakedown for campaign contributions, the businesses already know where to go to get laws that let them directly create monopolies.

        It works off of a parallel principle of asking people to give up their liberty under the guise of fighting an enemy. It's a game as old as time from when the first parent told their child, you better not leave the cave or an animal is going to gobble you up! And because there is a potential for that to "actually" happen, the parent just gained behavioral control of the child.

        There is a real potential for any business to gain a monopoly in a free market. And because of that fear, we ask to go ahead, cut to the chase, create that monopoly, but to then regulate it as a "trade-off" when it is actually not necessary to begin with.

        We should only focus on regulation that works against monopoly/trust formation, and never allow regulation that creates an atmosphere of "shakedowns" and/or "politician buying".

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 12:04pm

    Effectivly State Actors

    They are everything but in name, working for the government. They hand over any and all data upon request and even go so far as to allow backdoors and copying splicers to be built into their infrastructure.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 1:14pm

      Re: Effectivly State Actors

      If you want to stay on our "Good Side" you know what to do!

      What's that? You didn't give one of our Alphabet Soup agencies the information they requested? Well guess what? The IRS says your financial look a bit funny and it needs an audit. The FTC also noticed that you have a lot of consumer complaints piling up, you would not want us to stop ignoring those would you?

      You will either freely give us campaign contributions or we will take from you under fees and fines. The 1st gets you political favor with us, the 2nd gets us political favor with the citizens. We win either way, now choose!

      ~Politicians

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

  • icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 12:07pm

    It MIGHT hurt infrastructure investment

    "Markey asked Pai what problem he is trying to fix by repealing net neutrality rules. Pai responded, "One of the concerns we have raised is these regulations might be dampening infrastructure investment."

    Hey Pai, I hear that we might be about to be invaded by an evil race of space aliens.

    And I hear that these aliens might be allergic to milk and anyone who drinks at least 1 gallon of it a day.

    So since this might very well be true even though we have no evidence of it, this calls for drastic changes! We must mandate everyone buy and drinks a gallon of milk every day, because you know, it might fix a serious problem that may or may not exist.

    Because you know, that makes as much sense as throwing out a good net neutrality system that works and ditching all consumer protection, when all the evidence shows if we change anything we should go in the opposite direction of more consumer protections against the broadband/cable monopolies.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 12:42pm

    These Protections are not popular, with ISPs who don't like them.

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

  • identicon
    David, 26 Jul 2017 @ 2:04pm

    No contradiction.

    We all know (or should know by now) that Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter want the rules dead simply so they can make more money.

    Uh, we are talking about a Republican dominated Congress. Fans of trickle-down economy: the way to bring money to the poor is to give it to the rich.

    The rich are rich because they are just better at turning money into money than the poor.

    So if you want telecom infrastructure to be built, you hand money to telecom companies without strings attached rather than prescribe its use for building infrastructure.

    It's just common sense. If you want a cabinet to be built from massive wood, you hand money with no strings attached to somebody in possession of massive woods, and he will eventually have to pass trees to a carpenter where you can just get the cabinet when the carpenter does not know just what else to do with all that wood.

    Trickle down. If you have half a brain, you'll understand the concept and can apply for Congress. Just be sure to store the unused other half somewhere where it does not gather wood lice. It might still be good for building straw men.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jul 2017 @ 4:25am

    "We all know (or should know by now) that Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter want the rules dead simply so they can make more money."

    And that's not the problem. The problem is how they want to make that money. While arguably malicious, these companies haven't exactly ruined or killed anyone so they have, at worst, a neutral reputation among most people.

    This, along with the local monopolies they enjoy, is what truly helps them survive in court of public opinion.

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


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