Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
ajit pai, anti-trust, fcc, ftc, hal singer, net neutrality

Companies:
itif



Even Many ISP-Backed Allies Think Ajit Pai's Attack On Net Neutrality Is Too Extreme

from the overkill dept

With its quest to gut net neutrality, privacy and other consumer broadband protections, the FCC is rushing face first toward stripping meaningful oversight of some of the least-liked -- and least competitive -- companies in America. The FCC's plan, based on flimsy to no data and in stark contrast to the will of the public, involves gutting most FCC oversight of broadband providers, then shoveling any remaining authority to an FTC we've noted is ill-suited, under-funded, and legally ill-equipped for the job. That's a real problem for a sector that's actually getting less competitive than ever in many markets.

Giant ISPs and their armies of policy allies often try to frame the effort as a noble quest for deregulation, often insisting they're somehow "restoring internet freedom" in a bare-knuckled attempt to pander to partisan constituents. But by any sane measure the FCC's quest is little more than a massive gift to despised duopolies like Comcast -- at what might be the worst possible time for a severely dysfunctional industry. But there are signs that even many traditional big ISP allies think Ajit Pai's plan is absurdly extreme.

Hal Singer is an economist the telecom industry has often hired to manipulate data in order to make all manner of flimsy claims (from falsely stating net neutrality stifled network investment to falsely claiming net neutrality would dramatically raise taxes). But last week even Singer came forward to acknowledge that the FCC's plan to shovel net neutrality and other ISP oversight to the FTC won't fly. While Pai has repeatedly claimed that FTC authority and existing antitrust laws are enough to protect consumers from companies like Comcast, Singer disagrees:

"Singer lists several roadblocks to stopping discriminatory paid prioritization via antitrust. "Monopolists are generally free from legal constraints to choose their suppliers and engage in price discrimination under the antitrust laws," he wrote.

Antitrust laws are designed to protect competition, but "competition is not the only value that net neutrality aims to address: end-to-end neutrality or non-discrimination is a principle that many believe is worth protecting on its own," he wrote.

"Moreover, antitrust litigation imposes significant costs on private litigants, and it does not provide timely relief; if the net neutrality concern is a loss to edge innovation, a slow-paced antitrust court is not the right venue," he also wrote."

Of course there's also the fact that AT&T is currently engaged in a legal battle with the FTC over its network throttling that could hamstring the agency's authority over ISPs even further. If AT&T wins that court fight, the FTC has previously warned that it could open the door to all manner of companies dodging responsibility for unfair or deceptive business practices -- provided some small fraction of their business enjoys common carrier status. That could result in tiny acquisitions specifically designed to free any number of non-telecom companies from accountability, noted the FTC last year:

"Many companies provide both common-carrier and non-common-carrier services—not just telephone companies like AT&T, but also cable companies like Comcast, technology companies like Google, and energy companies like ExxonMobil (which operate common carrier oil pipelines). Companies that are not common carriers today may gain that status by offering new services or through corporate acquisitions. For example, AOL and Yahoo, which are not common carriers, are (or soon will be) owned by Verizon."

If you're the type of non-nuanced thinker that truly believes that all regulation is automatically evil without bothering to actually analyze the regulation, this whole idea probably sounds good to you. But telecom isn't a normal industry; it suffers from regulatory capture on both the state and federal level, which acts to prop up noncompetitive duopoly fiefdoms nationwide. Removing oversight of this sector without fixing any of the underlying corruption and dysfunction doesn't magically forge Utopia; it simply makes companies like Comcast less accountable than ever. And again, with broadband competition diminishing as many telcos refuse to upgrade their networks, that's a recipe for disaster.

Said disaster would likely result in greater calls than ever for tougher oversight and rules governing ISP behavior (aka monumental backlash during any post-Trump Presidency), which is likely why you're seeing Singer -- and even industry-backed groups like the ITIF -- calling for a more measured approach than Pai and friends are offering:

Of course this may have been Pai's plan all along; to offer an extreme frontal assault on net neutrality and FCC authority that would subsequently make any resulting "compromises" seem almost sane. But these end proposals would all likely be far weaker than the somewhat flimsy net neutrality protections we already enjoy. We've noted that's one of the reasons ISPs are pushing for a new Congressional law they claim would "settle the issue once and for all," hoping the public won't realize said law would be notably more tepid than the existing FCC protections -- since ISP lobbyists and lawyers would be the ones writing it.

Again, there's a far-simpler trajectory than the chaotic, disruptive and despised one proposed by Ajit Pai: leave FCC authority, and the popular. existing net neutrality rules, alone.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 6:08am

    "leave FCC authority, and the popular. existing net neutrality rules, alone."

    Can't have that. There's still a lot of cash to be inserted in Pai's non-trivial cavities.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 6:45am

      Re:

      Just Pai's?

      Pai is just the face of this problem.

      Glad to know that Congress still knows how to lead you all around by the nose.

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

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 6:52am

        Re: Re:

        Well, he is the one charging in the FCC's front. If you want to talk about bad bills in the Congress we can but that's not the focus of the article. And hopefully it will be fixed on the mid term elections. I foresee Republicans getting a hard beat.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 7:01am

          Re: Re: Re:

          But will their replacements be any better? Until the party system is broken around the world, these sort of problems will continue.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 7:28am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            And continue they shall. The innate desire for people for form groups is quite powerful. It is literally how civilization is built, and very hard to get people away from it.

            You will find that beyond all rationality that people cannot break away from their "group thinks". It is what they know, and regardless of how much wrong their group is doing, they are going to pay more attention to the externals groups trying to hurt them, because at least they have a greater chance of survival within their own, corrupt, self serving groups.

            People changing sides are usually considered traitors, further mitigating any changes to the status quo.

            This is why attacking groups is usually counter productive, you usually solidify each persons membership because they will feel as though they have no where left to go, and if their ONLY perceived survival is associated with the destruction of another group, they will fall in line, even if it is as a nazi. That is just how humans are and that nature is impossible for the majority to defeat in themselves!

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

        • icon
          Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 7:21am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Oh come on. We NEVER talk about bad congressional bills on this site.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 7:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            lol, that is not the problem we are discussing.

            The problem is the desire to assign a singular entity as the over arching monster. No monster stands at the top of a mountain without a bunch of monsters helping them up and help them stay there!

            this tends to fool people and they lose sight of the real problem. Like the medical and pharmaceutical industries, over time we find that it is better to just address the "symptoms" instead of working to address the "problem", you lose customers by solving the problem.

            It is human nature to desire conflict and trouble. We often march off in the wrong direction with little questioning and information, all because someone you think you can trust or called an expert "told you so"

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 7:42am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              And your solution is to march off in your direction with little questioning and information because you think you're an expert saying "told you so".

              Convincing.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 7:54am

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

                I that this is simple common sense.

                Or do you require someone to be an "expert" on "common sense" before you will listen? Perhaps your own sense is not so common after all...

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 8:28pm

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

                  Sure, that's common sense.

                  So what's your solution? Be born an asshole and have friends that let you be an asshole and don't mind that you haven't finished high school? That lets you have a moral, intellectual high horse to mock everyone? Sure, that's common sense in that any idiot born into that position can pull off.

                  You need to eat the paint chips you deserve.

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

            • icon
              stderric (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 6:17pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              The problem is the desire to assign a singular entity as the over arching monster.

              I don't think most TD readers take the naive view that Pai is the Alpha and the Omega of the assault on NN.

              Why a story like this is interesting is that it shows Pai being called out (even if quietly and gently) by some of those who, in theory, want exactly what he's trying to achieve. When your own allies are heard saying 'dude, tone it town,' it draws media attention, and this attention can bring the issue to the notice of a larger audience than it would normally have.

              Yes, a lot of them may just jump on the bandwagon to have the satisfaction of chanting 'Pai sucks!' along with the crowd, and this might only help in the short term. However, at least a few will find themselves chanting, and then start thinking 'Wait... what is it about Pai's behavior that demonstrates his suckitude?' At this point, maybe they start to learn more about Net Neutrality and become a long term defender and advocate for it.

              (OK, maybe it isn't usually a massive-scale 'John Oliver Effect' sort of thing, but every little bit helps.)

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

          • icon
            Ninja (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 11:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The tin foil is strong in this one!

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 8:41am

    Of course this may have been Pai's plan all along; to offer an extreme frontal assault on net neutrality and FCC authority that would subsequently make any resulting "compromises" seem almost sane.

    Otherwise known as the "I want a pony" maneuver.

    "Daddy, I want a pony!"

    "No."

    "Daddy, I want a pony!"

    "I said no."

    "But Daddy, I really really want a pony."

    "NO!"

    "Oh... fine. Can I at least have a puppy, then?"

    "*sigh* ...all right."

    "Heh heh heh. Easiest puppy ever."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 10:34am

    call him by his real name

    AJenT PAId

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 11:49am

    Arnt there??

    Ever see a Street fight??
    a gang war??

    IF no one puts Down any rules and restrictions..
    Only a few things happen.
    Fight to the death..(fight or buy up each other)(Customer Looses as prices go UP, to replace Profits Lost for the sales/lawyers)
    Everyone CLAIMS a corner and fights to defend it(customer looses again for same reason)

    This is a few Mafia houses, controlling there Hold on the market..
    The problem is that MOST of this is a Power swap and the OWNER holds all the Chips..(a few people OWN all these companies and swap them back and forth, to end up Hiding money and SHOWING LOSS(that isnt there))

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

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 4:22pm

    It Works in Court I'm Sure it Will Work on the Street

    "[Ajit Pai's] plan all along; to offer an extreme frontal assault on net neutrality and FCC authority that would subsequently make any resulting "compromises" seem almost sane."

    In talking to the average nimrod on street; Most believe that the FCC was over-regulating ISPs with the current Net Neutrality rules and these nimrods don't want the government deciding what can run on the public's wires (and you know packets on fiber as well).

    So let's look at the evidence: That in the U.S. it's a truism that a country governed by a majority will be ruled by the those who feed them.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 29 Aug 2017 @ 4:43pm

    "No parties at all, promise."

    I can't help but picture this as two kids being left alone in the house while the parents are off for a trip.

    Parents/General Public: Okay, so we left some money on the counter so you can pick up pizza, leftovers in the fridge, and we'll be back in a few days.

    Kid 1/ISP Tools: Cool, have fun on your trip, we'll try to keep any messes down, probably just chill with some movies or something.

    Kid 2/Pai: You mean after the awesome party?

    Parents/General Public: Party? Pretty sure we were very clear that there will be no parties while we're gone.

    Kid 1/ISP Tools: He's just kidding, no parties, we know you've already said no on those.

    Kid 2/Pai: Come on, we talked about this last night, we've already invited half a dozen people to come over in a few hours, and you said you had a friend that could hook us up with some good drinks.

    Parents/General Public: What drinks?

    Kid 1/ISP Tools: (Whispering to 2)Shut. Up.

    (Out loud) Ignore him, he apparently think's he's funny.

    Kid 2/Pai: Not to mention those movies... still can't believe you found someone willing to rent those out for just 'pizza' money, the school is going to be talking about this party forever.

    Parents/General Public: What movies?!

    Kid 1/ISP Tools: Ahahaha, such a kidder. Hey, you should definitely head out like right now, don't want to be late or anything. Don't worry, I'm sure everything he said was a complete joke and I'll be sure to tell him how terrible his sense of humor is after you leave.

    Kid 2/Pai: And the girls...

    Kid 1/ISP Tools: Man. Shut. Up.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 9:15pm

    "Of course this may have been Pai's plan all along"

    I think you do him to much credit for thinking he even has a plan beyond pandering to his overlords.

    I think Ajit Pai's just happy shoving "a shit pie" down all your throats.

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

  • identicon
    @athetize@mastodon.blue, 30 Aug 2017 @ 8:24am

    🔥⚠ warning, will robinson

    Less regulation is more better

    Agencies have no accountability to the electorate where lack of term limits is taken to ludicrous extremes: a working lifetime

    no

    A country of laws needs neither regulators nor oversight

    codify privacy rights in law explicitly from the privacies protected in constitutional ammendments

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 30 Aug 2017 @ 1:56pm

      Re: 🔥⚠ warning, will robinson

      Technically speaking, the Ten Commandments are (theocratic) government regulation.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2017 @ 7:25am

      Re: 🔥⚠ warning, will robinson

      I'm not one to regulate...But sir, I think you've had enough paint chips.

      No sir, I don't care if they're covfefe flavoured.

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


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