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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.

Reader Comments

The First Word

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2017 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Fine then, I will restate, "nobody has been acting like he was a 'messiah'". Many, many people criticized him saying the rules were great but didn't go far enough.

    Any step in the right direction is good enough to keep around. And despite what you think, facts show and the vast majority of the American public think that the current NN rules do a LOT of good.

    Whine and complain all you want about how the real problem is the monopolies (newsflash, yeah we know, we've been saying that from the beginning), but the current NN rules do a great deal to check the power of the monopolies. And whether we magically get them split up and the root problem solved tomorrow or not, that still doesn't make the current NN rules worthless and not worth having around.

    You scream, whine, berate, denigrate, and complain because NN rules don't solve the root problem. But you have not provided one single shred of evidence or even a weak argument that NN rules shouldn't continue to exist even after the root problem has been solved.

    And that's our point. Because honestly, why shouldn't they? You say there would be no need for them if we had a proper functioning market. Fine, we're all for that, but what's wrong with having them on the books anyway?

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