Shocker: FOIA Request Shows Yet Another Core Justification For Repealing Net Neutrality Was Bullshit

from the post-truth-apocalypse dept

We've pretty well established by now that the FCC's repeal of net neutrality is being justified by a lot of fluff and nonsense with no factual basis in reality. Like claims that net neutrality killed sector investment, which are easily debunked by SEC filings, earnings reports, and numerous public CEO comments to investors (who, unlike you, they're legally not allowed to lie to). From Ajit Pai's claims that net neutrality emboldens fascists in North Korea and Iran, to his most recent claim that net neutrality fears were overhyped because Twitter still somehow works, blatant bullshit is the foundation of this entire repeal effort.

For years now, one constant bit of bullshit spread by ISPs was the claim that the Obama-era White House somehow "illegally pressured" Tom Wheeler's FCC into passing tougher net neutrality rules. As we noted at the time that claim was nonsensical, since there's no law stopping the White House from expressing its opinion on what policy should be. From Bill Clinton urging then FCC boss Reed Hundt to ban alcohol ads on TV, to George W Bush telling then FCC boss Michael Powell to deregulate media ownership, such behavior is historically perfectly normal.

Again, this fact didn't stop ISPs and their water carriers in Congress and key media outlets from repeatedly trying to claim that Obama engaged in all manner of shifty behavior to force the FCC to create the rules. The Wall Street Journal in 2014, for example, professed that "unusual, secretive efforts inside the White House" caused FCC boss Tom Wheeler to shift his position from weaker, Title I based rules, to tougher Title II based rules. The idea that Obama's White House had undertaken a covert "federal takeover of the internet" quickly became gospel across countless partisan echoverses.

The criticism was enough to drive investigations in both the Senate and by the FCC’s Inspector General. And while nobody from either government body could be bothered to tell the public the outcome of these investigations, Motherboard recently filed several FOIA requests that now show the outcome of these investigations wound up being a giant bupkis:

"After reviewing more than 600,000 emails, the independent office found that there was no collusion between the White House and the FCC: “We found no evidence of secret deals, promises, or threats from anyone outside the Commission, nor any evidence of any other improper use of power to influence the FCC decision-making process."

Which again, was what we suggested back in early 2015. None of the claims that heralded Obama's "illegal takeover of the internet" had the slightest bit of evidence in support of them, noted the FCC Inspector General's report:

"Nothing we found refuted the factual findings in the Senate Staff Report,” the IG wrote (bolding by agency). “More importantly, nothing we found in the complete, unredacted record evidenced any undue influence that would have militated in favor of a more comprehensive investigation."

What the Inspector General found, then, were career public servants doing their job: “Nothing in these, or in any other emails appeared to indicate there was pressure to delay the Order from the December meeting from any source other than concerned FCC staffers,” the report found, adding that there was “no indication” that a draft of the net neutrality regulations had been circulated improperly.

Obama's first FCC boss Julius Genachowski was arguably a wishy washy fence sitter. But his replacement Tom Wheeler wound up actually being the rare type of person capable of changing his mind based on the available evidence. And when the available evidence (and the courts) made it clear that you can't have effective net neutrality rules without classifying ISPs as common carriers until Title II of the Communications Act, that's exactly what Wheeler did. He didn't make an evidence-based decision because of some secret White House cabal, he did it because that was his fucking job. And he's subsequently been punished for it.

Of course the very idea that net neutrality (aka wanting a healthy, competitive internet) is somehow partisan was already bullshit in and of itself. It's a construct built by the telecom industry's lobbying and policy apparatus, perpetuated by numerous ISP-funded groups. The express goal is to divide the public, sow dissent, and stall meaningful reform of a broken, uncompetitive market. If you hadn't noticed, this tactic has proven immeasurably successful.


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  1. icon
    dcfusor (profile), 20 Dec 2017 @ 10:14am

    See?

    From slashdot.

    Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced net neutrality legislation on Tuesday.

    Now, I'm not going to claim this will actually help anything, like the loophole I mentioned above, the devil here will be in the details, and any bi-partisan effort will have bribable contributors sure to fill this or any other attempt full of holes, and since this will be legislation, it'll be a lot more locked in than what an FCC commissioner can manage.

    Hate to break it to you guys, but simply agitating - keyboard wars, even bringing legal action isn't going to repeal the old golden rule - the gold rules. Trying to blame it on one team - red or blue, ignores the fact that they are all on the "gimme the green" team, and like Hitchhikers Guide mentions, just there to distract from the real power.

    I wish it were otherwise, but after 60+ years of watching this circus slide down a slippery slope that began long ago, it's hard to keep believing.

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