Politics

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
ajit pai, competition, fcc, net neutrality

Companies:
comcast, ctia, ncta



Broadband Lobbyists Gush Over Re-Appointment Of Trump's FCC Boss

from the we-just-love-consumers-so-very,-very-much dept

If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that Trump-appointed FCC boss Ajit Pai is viciously unpopular. There are dozens of reasons for this, ranging from his assault on net neutrality and broadband privacy rules, to his efforts to protect cable's set top box monopoly while fiddling with data measurement to downplay a lack of competition in the space. Pai's the type to gut broadband funding programs for the poor while professing to be a stalwart champion of bridging the digital divide -- a man whose self-professed dedication to transparency is notably absent in his policy making.

This week, Pai was up for re-confirmation for a new five year term at the FCC. Consumer groups tried desperately to convince lawmakers to block his re-confirmation. It was a well-intentioned but arguably-futile exercise, since even if Pai was blocked, he simply would have been replaced by some other industry rubber stamp (most likely either current FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly, or Brendon Carr). Still the historically contentious 52 to 41 vote got notably closer than most people expected, with many politicians quick to highlight Pai's more-than-cozy relationship with giant cable operators:

Not too surprisingly, major ISP lobbying and policy organizations were quick to trip over themselves in gushing about Pai's re-appointment, using rhetoric so detached from reality as to border on high art. Comcast's top lobbyist David Cohen (Comcast apparently hates it when you call him what he is) proudly proclaimed that Pai's re-appointment was a major boon to consumers:

We commend the Senate’s decision today to reconfirm Ajit Pai as FCC chairman. Throughout his over five years at the FCC as a commissioner and during his nine-month tenure as chairman, Ajit Pai has favored deregulatory policies aimed at encouraging innovation, investment, job creation and economic growth – all in an effort to best serve consumers.

Yes, nothing "serves consumers" like gutting rules protecting them from Comcast's growing monopoly over broadband, allowing the cable giant to impose punitive usage caps and overage fees, saddling consumers with added costs while making competition harder for competing streaming providers. Or perhaps Cohen was referring to the way Pai crushed the FCC's attempted dismantling of cable's hardware monopoly over the cable box, thanks to a massive disinformation effort involving claims that cable box competition would hurt minorities, destroy copyright, confuse consumers, and rip the very Earth off of its axis.

Former FCC boss turned top cable industry lobbyist Michael Powell was similarly thrilled by Pai's re-appointment:

During his tenure at the FCC, Chairman Pai has consistently demonstrated a thoughtful approach to policymaking that promotes consumer welfare through marketplace competition and innovation. We share Chairman Pai’s vision for policies aimed at spurring continued investment and expanding opportunity for all Americans, and we look forward to working with him and all members of the commission in pursuing policies that protect consumers and promote the continued growth of new networks and services.

Right, nothing quite promotes the "continued growth of new services" like gutting popular net neutrality protections, which prevent smaller companies from being crushed by industry duopolists like Comcast and AT&T. And what helps foster "new networks" quite like killing rules that protect smaller competitors from Verizon and AT&T's total market domination of the special access, tower backhaul and business data services (BDS) markets, which will indisputably jack up prices for consumers and small businesses alike?

Not to be outdone, FCC Commissioner -- turned Comcast lobbyist -- turned top lobbyist for the wireless industry Meredith Attwell Baker, lavished praise on Pai for his dedication to "investment-spurring" policies:

On behalf of CTIA and the wireless industry, we congratulate Chairman Ajit Pai on his reconfirmation to the Federal Communications Commission. Chairman Pai’s continued leadership and expertise is essential as we transition to next-generation 5G wireless networks. He understands the need for smart policies to spur investment, innovation and growth and the importance of America continuing to lead the world in wireless.

As you all surely know, making it significantly more expensive for smaller businesses to survive and compete with industry giants is the very definition of "spurring innovation and growth." You also must know by now that Pai's tendency to completely ignore the broadband sector's blatantly obvious competition problems is the very first step toward a brave new tomorrow.

Unfortunately, because ISP lobbyists have convinced too many of us that maintaining a healthy internet and vibrant competition is somehow a "partisan issue," criticism of Pai's backward-ass policies will continue to be thrown under the media coverage bus. As a result, the next few months we'll get to enjoy the final killing blow against net neutrality, the rubber stamping of a competition-killing Sprint T-Mobile merger, and higher broadband prices than ever as bloated broadband and media empires cash in on Pai's regulatory apathy. Are you excited yet?


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 10:48am

    innovation, investment, job creation and economic growth

    In the last 5 years, what, if anything, has improved in any of those 4 areas in the broadband industry? Filter out improvements that were a direct result of the actions of Pai's predecessor.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 3:26pm

      Re:

      innovation

      The companies in question have worked tirelessly to come up with new and innovative ways to give you worse service for more, such as charging you an additional fee if you don't want your traffic monitored, applying completely unnecessary usage caps to new areas, and many other highly innovative practices.

      investment

      Though I don't have the numbers, I imagine that paychecks for the higher ups in the various companies have seen steady additional investments, as their innovative practices have allowed them to self-justify larger and larger paychecks.

      job creation

      Uhh...

      economic growth

      With the numerous innovative practices the companies in question have rolled out their profits have been doing quite nicely, showing consistent economic growth in the only way that really matters. After all if the company is happy then everyone is happy.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 10:52am

    When the only people happy are those he's allegedly supposed to oversee, perhaps a mistake has been made.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 11:52am

      Re:

      I do not think it is a mistake, after three or four years of this crap the tide will turn when the administration changes, and their will be a backlash. It is very shortsighted of the ISPs to be doing this.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 11:03am

    Broadband Loves Consumers

    Broadband Loves Consumers
    Foxes Love Chickens
    Sharks Love Fish

    oh, and . . .

    Microsoft Loves Linux

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 11:47am

      Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

      Don't quite understand your last comparison as it relates to the others.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 3:28pm

        Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

        Microsoft created an in-house phrase:

        "Embrace, extend, extinguish"

        Linux as well as other open source projects have a long history of Microsoft and their loving arms embracing them by the neck.

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

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 6:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

          Oh, spare us. That phrase was the vice president of Intel's creation for his criticism of Microsoft.

          And frankly it applies equally to what Netscape, Sun, Adobe, Macromedia, IBM and the other players were all doing at the time with proprietary elements in Navigator, Flash, PDF, Java, Notes etc. "Our product shall be the industry standard, and we shall control it."

          And got an example of Microsoft trying to extinguish a Linux standard after first embracing it?

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2017 @ 6:18am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

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

            • icon
              Roger Strong (profile), 5 Oct 2017 @ 11:19am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

              To clarify: Got an example of Microsoft trying to extinguish a Linux standard after first embracing it as opposed to someone merely claiming that this is what Microsoft wants to do?

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2017 @ 12:36pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

                Munich in the article is not just a claim but an example as requested. But hey I don't expect to change your mind at all. The information is there. The recent changes with Azure are another example.

                Microsoft merely claiming to love Linux and open source is far different than no longer trying to destroy Linux and open source. I can give many historical examples of Microsoft's hostility toward Linux and open source. In Time there will be too much blatant evidence for anyone to even attempt to refute that Microsoft has changed and somehow now loves Linux and open source as they currently claim.

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

                • icon
                  Roger Strong (profile), 5 Oct 2017 @ 1:13pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

                  I can give many historical examples of Microsoft's hostility toward Linux and open source.

                  As competition, sure. That's normal in ANY business.

                  Now that users are demanding cross-platform compatibility - for Dot NET apps running on Linux or Linux apps running in Windows and plenty more examples - Microsoft is embracing Linux. No doubt it'll favor it's own products, just like any business would.

                  You still haven't given an example of a Linux standard that Microsoft has embraced and then tried to extinguish. And we're talking about a company that regularly, enthusiastically, pulls the rug out from under programmers by extinguishing it's own standards.

                  Look. I was in the computer industry when IBM was the big evil and Microsoft was the underdog.

                  I had an Apple II when Apple had open hardware and standards, and then I watched them move to closed hardware and proprietary standards. Even worse, changing to different proprietary standards on all their IO ports with every new model. (Not just proprietary SCSI and video ports, but the REALLY common stuff. My brand-new PC has the same microphone and headphone ports as the Apple II, and tape recorders a decade before that. I knew a guy who had three Macs, and needed three different microphones.)

                  I was in the computer industry when Google was the "Don't Be Evil" underdog, and that's firmly in the past.

                  Microsoft has behaved like Netscape, Sun, Adobe, Macromedia, IBM and the other players. No more, no less. And frankly, right now I trust them more than Google.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2017 @ 6:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

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

            • icon
              Roger Strong (profile), 5 Oct 2017 @ 11:25am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

              Yes; the article describes exactly what I wrote. The phrase was the vice president of Intel's creation for his criticism of Microsoft. His description of what he thought Microsoft's intentions were.

              Not that I disagree with him. Again, the same could be said with equal accuracy for Netscape, Sun, Adobe, Macromedia, IBM and the other players.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 5 Oct 2017 @ 12:09pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

                The start of the article:

                "Embrace, extend, and extinguish", also known as "Embrace, extend, and exterminate", is a phrase that the U.S. Department of Justice found was used internally by Microsoft to describe its strategy for entering product categories involving widely used standards, extending those standards with proprietary capabilities, and then using those differences to disadvantage its competitors.

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

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 5 Oct 2017 @ 7:14am

        Re: Re: Broadband Loves Consumers

        Microsoft claims that it loves Linux. I say, Yeah, Right.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 11:22am

    Ajit Pai has favored deregulatory policies aimed at encouraging innovation, investment, job creation and economic growth

    Those policies do help those things, when applied to a free market with robust competition. When applied to a market like the American broadband market, which has no meaningful competition to speak of and extensive regulations that interfere with the free market, Pai's deregulatory approach is exactly the wrong thing to do. If his deregulatory preferences had created an environment where it was practical for an upstart to challenge an existing misbehaving ISP, that'd be great. They haven't, and they won't, because there are too many anticompetitive regulations/laws on the books (witness the tremendous difficulty Google Fiber faced rolling out even on small scale, with its vast financing and extensive public support).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 11:52am

    Partisan Politics

    /"Unfortunately, because ISP lobbyists have convinced too many of us that maintaining a healthy internet and vibrant competition is somehow a "partisan issue," ..." //


    Government regulation/control of the internet and communications 'automatically' becomes a "partisan issue" -- dictated by politics, not reason.

    ISP's certainly are not the only partisan entities pressuring government personnel to act in their favor... TD is also publicly advocating a partisan course of government action on this issue. Which side is correct on this issue ??
    It does not matter because the side with the most political power will prevail in all government activity.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 12:09pm

      Re: Partisan Politics

      You are correct, this has become a partisan issue, and TD did help make it one.

      "Which side is correct on this issue ?? "

      Neither side! And both refuse to listen to any reason. We are only going to get one pile of bullshit or the other and likely a variable sprinkling of additional bullshit we did not see coming as part of the fall out.

      this problem has been decades in motion, easy to see, but hard to gain traction on because of the political divide.

      I told them what was going to happen and the only thing they do in response is hate me more, because admitting that they got played and are going to keep getting played is too much for them!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 2:47pm

        Re: Re: Partisan Politics

        And who are you that anyone should care what you "told them"?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 9:53pm

          Re: Re: Re: Partisan Politics

          Someone who's "smart" enough to think up solutions and tell everyone else that they're too dumb to think them up but refuses to explain anything anyway.

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

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 7:49pm

      Re: Partisan Politics

      The meaning is Republican Party / Democrat Party. As in "elected officials". Because one of those is the only group besides the ISPs who think no NN, and no other restrictive regulations, are the way to go. The electorate seems to largely agree and any disagreement is not along party lines.

      Do have fun with your semantic derailment there. Yeah, most of us are aware that evidence-based anything is a hopeless cause*. It's so partisan. But you know, we keep trying anyway.

      *Actually, I am given to understand that some people actually feel optimism about these kinds of things. That isn't something I can grok.

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

      • icon
        The Wanderer (profile), 10 Oct 2017 @ 8:07am

        Re: Re: Partisan Politics

        *bzzt*

        There's no such thing as the/a "Democrat Party", at least not in the United States of America.

        It's called the "Democratic Party".

        This can be a legitimate confusion, arising from the fact that the adjective and noun for one major party are the same (both "Republican") but the adjective and noun for the other major party are different.

        In my experience, however, the usage of "Democrat" as an adjective has historically been a red-flag indicator that the speaker has a distinct right-wing bias. This seems to be becoming a less reliable sign in more recent times, but the past precedent is still there.

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

  • icon
    Jinxed (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 12:02pm

    As one who has been watching the NN debate for a while now, I've a question to ask of Techdirt: Despite the reclassification, what truly has changed in the broadband world?

    We've got a reclassification of the definition of "broadband".

    That's it. The only true power the FCC has bestowed on the US market is redefining broadband speeds.

    The notion the FCC now has "authority" over broadband thanks to the reclassification was as effective as stating a dog now has bigger teeth.

    If the teeth aren't used, then the change is pointless.

    The entirety of Title II was destroyed thanks to zero rating.

    Since Title II's reclassification, we all still have: -No competition -High prices -Throttled connections (disguised as limit thresholds) -Spying ISPs who sell our data -Broadband caps

    Let Pai remove Title II. Things will still not change for the better.

    Title II wasn't a "consumer's best hope". It only modified the definition, and even then, the FCC had very little regulation over it.

    I understand the vocal opposition to removing the classification, but I also know false hope when I see it.

    Title II is false hope. Let it go.

    Instead, demand Congress fix broadband the right way and leave the FCC out out it completely.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 1:00pm

      Re:

      If the teeth aren't used, then the change is pointless.

      Under that logic, voting should be gotten rid of. Although, something tells me if we were to take away that farce you'd get pretty pissed off...

      Here's a hint: Yes, when regulations are not enforced, you can't expect change, but that doesn't mean the regulation has failed. It means the people charged with the authority for doing so are slacking off and not doing their jobs. Get rid of them, replace them with people who will do their jobs, and you might just get that change you want.

      BTW:

      Instead, demand Congress fix broadband the right way and leave the FCC out out it completely.

      Doing that is what got us aging third world infrastructure, "internet fast lanes" that run the risk of getting people killed (don't think so? Wait until that auto-driving car of yours can't get it's telemetry data on the interstate during a holiday because you didn't cough up enough cash, or your loved ones die over night because they didn't pony up for the overpriced "medical alert reporting" lane.), data caps that have ridiculous overages, ISP spying, and all of the other ills we've had as of late.

      But considering you want more ills, how do these sound? 5Ghz Wifi that renders air traffic control and weather radar inoperative and useless, wifi hardware that makes your home wifi useless due to the over-shouting of one network hogging all of the bandwidth, phone systems that are incompatible with each other so you can't call someone not on the same carrier (at least not without a special fee), no television / radio censorship (because why should they keep paying the censors? Fuck little johnny, he'll learn how to be sailor from Dora), broadband internet @ 2kbps, and more.

      Face it, society requires some level of regulation to serve the public interest. Companies don't do that on their own. To do so would go against the basic principles of Capitalism, because it requires rejecting profit generating practices or measures that would harm society. As such the government has enforce society's well being through regulations. You're still free to make massive profits, you just can't sacrifice / harm society to do it. Don't like it? Go to some other dictatorship where you can do whatever the heck you please.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 2:50pm

      Re:

      The FCC never got the chance to follow up on that change. Pai was brought in to replace Wheeler and that was the end of that. The reclassification was a baby step in the right direction but far, far from the end goal.

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

  • icon
    Jinxed (profile), 4 Oct 2017 @ 12:03pm

    PS: are you guys ever going to fix the format issue with this new markdown setup?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 10:11pm

    Can' go into details but Straight Talk is about to be sued for billions.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 11:25pm

    You know, at one time the FCC actually watchdogged the telecom industry and the public RF spectrum it was entrusted with as a public resource and utility.

    Then over time thanks to millions and millions of dollars in lobbying and bri... I mean campaign contributions to Congress & state legislatures, those that are supposed to be watching the weasels to keep them out of the hen house are actively helping those weasels rob the hen house while those that would normally be doing their jobs are hamstrung by those mouthing "let the market decide!" tropes while simultaniously making SURE that market is as rigged as it possibly can be in favor of their campaign contributors!

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


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