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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  1. 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.".


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