Comcast's Top Lobbyist Is Pushing A Net Neutrality 'Compromise' That Isn't

from the zero-credibility dept

With net neutrality rules currently on the chopping block, Comcast's top lobbyist is once again trying to sell people on letting giant ISPs pick winners and losers on the internet. The FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules explicitly banned "paid prioritization," or letting one company (say, Disney) buy itself a network advantage over more cash-strapped competitors. While the FCC's 2015 rules carved out vast exceptions for legitimate prioritization (VoIP, medical services), they made it clear that anti-competitive paid prioritization deals of this kind distorted the traditionally level playing field, letting the wealthiest companies buy an unfair edge over competitors.

And while Comcast used to promise that it would never consider such deals, those promises have slowly but surely evaporated the closer we get to the net neutrality repeal the company has spent millions on. As we get closer to a country without real net neutrality protections, Comcast's promises to avoid such pay-to-play schemes have been not-coincidentally mysteriously disappearing from the company's website.

Now Comcast's top lobbyist David Cohen (who calls himself the company's "Chief Diversity Officer" to tap dance around lobbying disclosure rules) has been making the rounds trying to suggest that paid prioritization isn't all that bad. Speaking at a recent telecom industry-funded think tank event, Cohen tried to argue that "politics" has gotten in the way of a real conversation about such proposals, and that hard rules banning all prioritization would hamstring innovation:

"He said there has been a recognition that "something might come along that is not anticompetitive, that is pro-consumer, and that is a specialized service not available to every user of the internet that would be in the public interest."

He said the paid prioritization/specialized service example, which he raised at last week’s American Cable Association conference in Washington, was about what could happen if people sat down to talk about the issue rather than playing politics with it. His point was that there was a conversation to be had about pro-consumer, non-anticompetitive services if folks would get past the politics."

But that's bullshit. There was a way to allow sensible, innovative prioritization deals while still outlawing anti-competitive paid prioritization: the 2015 FCC rules that Cohen and his buddies lobbied the Trump FCC to repeal. Again, we had this problem pretty much resolved already with rules that allowed for the prioritization of essential and specialized services, but prohibited deals that put smaller players at an anti-competitive disadvantage. Rules that took years of debate to craft, only to be discarded because the Trump FCC decided to ignore the public, ignore the experts, and kiss Comcast's giant, monopolistic ass.

This idea that net neutrality will hamper innovation is a canard the industry has been circulating for years. Both Comcast and Verizon have also repeatedly tried to falsely claim that net neutrality rules harm the sick and disabled, despite the fact that's never been remotely true. But said canards have been dusted off and repurposed as Cohen renews a push for "rational" net neutrality legislation with weaker limits on prioritization deals:

"If rational people will sit down and talk about this, they can even resolve what has become a third rail around bipartisan network neutrality legislation," he said."

What's Cohen's really up to here? Again, the broadband industry is (quite justly) worried that the Trump FCC's net neutrality repeal won't hold up in court, in large part thanks to all the shady behavior the FCC either directly engaged in or turned a blind eye toward during the repeal. Large ISPs like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are also increasingly worried about the fact that more than half the states in the country are now pursuing their own net neutrality rules in the wake of federal apathy on the subject.

As such, the industry is pushing hard for a fake net neutrality law it knows its lawyers will get to write. A law so filled with loopholes it would be effectively useless in policing net neutrality. But it would serve one primary purpose: it would both pre-empt tougher state efforts, and prevent the FCC's 2015 rules from being restored in the wake of an FCC and industry court loss. As large ISPs get more and more nervous about their chances in court, you're going to see the sale pitch for this bogus "compromise" legislative solution only grow.

Again, if you support net neutrality, the best path forward rests with the courts, not garbage "compromise" legislation being pushed by a company with zero credibility on this subject. If the courts don't stop the FCC's repeal, the next best option is voting out the lawmakers that sold out the public at Comcast's behest, then trying again down the road with an FCC and Congress that isn't quite so cash-compromised.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Apr 2018 @ 5:11am

    Gotta love the classics

    "If rational people will sit down and talk about this, they can even resolve what has become a third rail around bipartisan network neutrality legislation," he said."

    Good old poisoning the well, where you frame the issue such that the only possible reason someone might disagree with you is not because they've seen through your bullshit and lies, not because they've seen the evidence and come to a different conclusion, but because they're not rational people, and as such nothing they say is of any value.

    Hardly surprising coming from the congressional-fluffer/technically-not-a-lobbyist Cohen, but still decidedly sleazy nonetheless.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2018 @ 6:43am

      Re: Gotta love the classics

      "Good old poisoning the well, where you frame the issue such that the only possible reason someone might disagree with you is not because they've seen through your bullshit and lies, not because they've seen the evidence and come to a different conclusion, but because they're not rational people, and as such nothing they say is of any value."

      Yep, nothing new under the sun. I hate this for the same reason that the word "reasonable" should not be allowed inside of a law anywhere!

      The words rational and reasonable are paradoxes!

      What is rational/reasonable for some... is not necessarily rational/reasonable for others!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2018 @ 7:40am

    There is only one solution to this

    Just allow all media and network to merge into one, we could call it not Alphabet, no that already exists, how about The Corporation Of Truthful Information? that has a nice ring or COTI for short COTI what is the weather like today?, COTI please play Mini-Tunes mix.

    COTI is your friend.

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

  • icon
    Jinxed (profile), 4 Apr 2018 @ 9:38am

    If rational people will sit down and talk about this...

    We have, Mr. Cohen, which makes you the irrational person in these discussions.

    Perhaps learn from this.

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

  • identicon
    Iggy, 4 Apr 2018 @ 2:43pm

    Now he wants a discussion?

    After throwing out privacy protections without any discussion and rolling out an order to repeal Title II the Friday before Thanksgiving, all of a sudden he wants a discussion? Sure, lets have a discussion - Just as soon as we have 4 or more ISP's to choose from in most markets, a congress accountable to its voters, and a media capable of investigating the rich and powerful. Then we can sit down and figure out whats best for the country as a whole.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2018 @ 6:30am

    There is Trump. There is the FCC. There is no Trump FCC. Those phrases exist only in the minds of bitter Trump bashers who still, after all this time, cannot reconcile mentally with the fact that their compromised-to-the-hilt pet-politicians are no longer at the helm,.. ripped out by the roots as need be (as happens when a temporary occupant of permanent office attempts to make their occupancy permanent as well, along with all the under the table (illegal) dealings they bring with them).

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

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 5 Apr 2018 @ 9:04am

      Re:

      Why do you object to the use of elision to avoid the need to type "the Trump administration's FCC" every time one wants to distinguish between the current incarnation of the FCC and one or more of the previous incarnations thereof?

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

  • identicon
    Lily, 8 Apr 2018 @ 3:27pm

    Ryan

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


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