Verizon Just Obliterated Ajit Pai's Justification For Killing Net Neutrality

from the ill-communication dept

If you'll recall, FCC boss Ajit Pai has spent the better part of the last few years insisting that giving the telecom industry whatever it wants will somehow magically boost sector investment, jobs, and competition. Of course if you've paid attention to history you'll probably notice that in telecom, it never actually works that way. Former FCC boss Mike Powell (now the top lobbyist for the cable industry) engaged in much of the same behavior in the early aughts, promising that if you obliterate consumer protections and regulatory oversight of ISPs, telecom Uptopia magically springs forth from the sidewalk. Instead, we got Comcast.

It's a cycle of dysfunction Americans just can't seem to learn anything from.

Since the start of his tenure, Ajit Pai and the GOP have taken a flamethrower to numerous, basic consumer protections ranging from basic privacy rules governing the sale and collection of your private data, to net neutrality rules that protect consumers and competitors from being nickel-and-dimed by lumbering telecom monopolies. He's also attacked efforts to bring competition to cable boxes, has slowly dismantled broadband programs for the poor, attacked states rights' to protect consumers or build their own networks, and basically neutered the FCC's ability to protect you from monopoly power.

More recently, you'll recall the massive tax cuts were supposed to spur investment, the telecom sector included. As was Ajit Pai's recent policy order neutering local authority over cellular tower placement. Both, like net neutrality, were supposed to result in a dramatic spike in next-gen "5G" network deployment, and a big boost in sector investment overall. This week, Verizon made it clear that none of those things would actually be happening, despite the $2 billion in savings Pai's 5G "reform" alone provided Verizon:

"Verizon Wireless says it will not move faster on building its 5G cellular network despite a Federal Communications Commission decision that erased $2 billion dollars' worth of fees for the purpose of spurring faster 5G deployment...in an earnings call last week, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis told investors that the FCC decision won't have any effect on the speed of its 5G deployment. Verizon also said that it is reducing overall capital expenditures—despite a variety of FCC decisions, including the net neutrality repeal, that the FCC claimed would increase broadband network investment.

That net neutrality hampered broadband industry investment has been the cornerstone of Ajit Pai's entire justification for removing those rules, despite this claim never being adequately supported by the facts. Again, that claim was directly contradicted by SEC filings, earnings reports, and more than a dozen public CEO statements. And here it is again being disproved by the industry itself, just as they were by Powell's empty promises in the early aughts. All the bogus, massaged ISP economist claims to the contrary can't save this turd of an argument when the evidence is sitting right in front of you.

Telecom sector investment doesn't magically explode just because you let AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast directly dictate your tech policy agenda. Gutting essential consumer protections doesn't magically "unhinder the free market," it simply lets lumbering, politically-powerful giants double down on a generation of nickel-and-diming captive customers, with neither regulatory oversight nor healthy competition acting as guide rails.

Targeted deregulation can help healthy markets if it's aimed at eliminating bureaucracy that hinders competition or innovation, but anybody claiming that mindless deregulation can cure telecom either is lying to you for financial gain, or doesn't understand how the U.S. telecom market works. People tend to take Libertarian or free market theories cultivated from other sectors, and apply them to a telecom sector that's uniquely broken and corrupt, failing to understand that blind deregulation won't work here. Steadily weakened antitrust protections similarly aren't the panacea these folks believe.

What the telecom sector desperately needs is even-handed, intelligent tech policy and regulatory solutions with an unwavering focus on one thing: driving broadband competition in whatever form that takes. There's a million ways to accomplish this, from eliminating ISP-written, protectionist state laws banning your town and city from exploring creative alternatives to purely private networks (like public/private options), to actually holding giant ISPs accountable when they try to hamstring both direct broadband or streaming video competitors.

What you don't do is let companies with an obvious, vested interest in less competition and no guard rails completely dictate tech policy, then repeatedly lie about the amazing net benefits this mindless fealty will have. For whatever reason, despite history repeatedly and painfully illustrating the perils of this approach in the form of some of the worst service of any kind available in America (call Comcast customer support or spend a week using a West Virginian Frontier DSL line if you need first-hand experience on this front), it's a lesson the United States stubbornly refuses to learn.


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  • identicon
    Doug D, 1 Nov 2018 @ 10:51am

    How?

    How does this obliterate "rich people are paying me to kill it"?

    Oh, wait, I see, you mean the justification he *claimed*, not the *real* one. Got it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 10:55am

    It's a cycle of dysfunction Americans just can't seem to learn anything from.

    You can apply that to just about any topic though.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    musterion (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 11:17am

    OK, go tell your congress critter

    to deal with this. Net Neutrality whether good or bad was beyond the scope of the FCC. Have Congress authorize the FCC to handle this, and while you are at it, have Congress include a "Fairness Doctrine" so the regulated carriers like Facebook and Twitter can't selectively censor viewpoints they don't like.

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

    • icon
      Nathan F (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 11:42am

      Re: OK, go tell your congress critter

      have Congress include a "Fairness Doctrine" so the regulated carriers like Facebook and Twitter can't selectively censor viewpoints they don't like.

      Three things. Facebook and Twitter aren't 'regulated carriers' like I think you are meaning. They do not provide access to the Internet.

      Second. Facebook and Twitter are private companies and as such you have to play by whatever rules they write to use their services. If those rules include 'selectively censoring viewpoints' that go against the rules you agreed to follow, then tough luck.

      Third. They tried a "Fairness Doctrine" a couple of decades ago when it came to political advertising and news coverage. It didn't work and got dropped.

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

    • icon
      Chris-Mouse (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 12:23pm

      Re: OK, go tell your congress critter

      > Net Neutrality whether good or bad was beyond the scope of the FCC

      How is regulating a communications medium somehow beyond the scope of the government department set up specifically to regulate communications systems?

      As for Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc they are NOT carriers. They don't connect you to another location, they merely take information you send them, and display it on their website. Any sort of regulation on what they can, cannot, or must include on their site is going to be running face first into the first amendment.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 5:17pm

        Re: Re: OK, go tell your congress critter

        Well, the crux of the issue is that broadband companies are being classified as "Information services" and that is where the FCC (read: ajit pai) gets their justification for removing net neutrality.

        What we need to do is fix that definition... such that broadband companies are treated as common carriers.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 11:35am

    Just them huh?

    "Of course if you've paid attention to history"

    They are not the only ones that need a serious history lesson.

    Keep bitching and losing no matter how many politicians you throw at the problem. It's working out damn good, right?

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

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 1 Nov 2018 @ 11:56am

    Fairness and even hand?

    Really?
    And the useless FCC at that?

    What is needed is someone who asks nicely with a smile while holding a hammer.

    What I want is a Judge Dread or Martial Law type whose only jurisdiction is the 1%.

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

  • identicon
    Pi,elation, 1 Nov 2018 @ 12:41pm

    The work of Ajit has always been about pushing more money to the top and we all know it.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    The Mythical Newt Rality, 1 Nov 2018 @ 12:45pm

    Got your rant down pat. To hell with facts.

    For whatever reason, despite history repeatedly and painfully illustrating the perils of this approach in the form of some of the worst service of any kind available in America, it's a lesson the United States stubbornly refuses to learn.

    Bode's standard is "some of the worst service of any kind available in America" -- but that's actually a high level. Oh, sure, America-haters will try to push same notion with phony measures of densely packed European cities. You don't grasp the urban sprawl of America. Even with up to 20% illegal immigrants, it's only about three times the population of England in over fifty times the area. Nearly all houses are FULLY "detached", dozens to hundreds of feet (often MILES on the nearby "country" roads) between. I'd bet in even "urban" areas that at least thrice the actual materials are required for any given level of service, and "high-speed" has more steeply increasing cost-per-mile. You can't directly compare dense apartments to vast sprawl, any more than can compare wiring my office to doing the entire neighborhood.

    That's fact. I consider it nailed down that Bode's loaded phrase fizzles.

    Now, "it's a lesson the United States stubbornly refuses to learn" fizzles too because service is mostly OKAY. Out here on the edge of the prairie we don't complain. We don't really care about teh internets, don't just sit around watching TV and playing games and WHINING how awful the country is.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 3:01pm

      Out here on the edge of the prairie we don't complain.

      You should. Get loud, get angry, get your local corporate jackoffs shaking in their boots that you could cut off their revenue stream. You will never see better service if you settle for mediocrity, for “fine”, for “good enough”.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 3:33pm

      Re: Got your rant down pat. To hell with facts.

      "We don't really care about teh internets, don't just sit around watching TV and playing games and WHINING how awful the country is."

      This is some awesome self-parody from you.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 8:55pm

      Re: Got your rant down pat. To hell with facts.

      Congratulations on not actually disproving anything while using a lot of words!

      If you think ISP service is "actually a high level", then you are obviously lying because ISPs are the absolute worst rated for customer service in America. LITERALLY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LIST. ISPs in other countries have a much higher customer service rating.

      Just because you don't care, doesn't mean other people don't and why should the rest of us sink down to your level? If you want to live out in wide open plains with barely even electricity or running water, that's fine, you just can't force the rest of us to join you.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 3:28am

      Re: Got your rant down pat. To hell with facts.

      So to summarize you don't get why people shouldn't be semi-amish luddites in a nation which has hitherto prided itself on being "world class" in technology?

      Seriously. If your spiel is that the US citizenry should settle for the tech and culture good enough for ole grandpappy then that's one thing. Knock yourself out.

      But if that's the case you don't get to keep claiming the US is in the big leagues any more since THAT relies on keeping a certain internationally competitive edge which you'll have thrown right out of the window.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 12:47pm

    'Also if you could somehow shoot our competition again...'

    Pai and similar ISP stooges: 'Deregulation and massive tax cuts will enable the companies like Verizon to invest heavily in speeding up deployment of truly cutting edge networks, giving the american pubic a better, fast and cheaper service!'

    Verizon: 'Yeah... we're not going to do any of that. More tax cuts and less rules would be nice though.'

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 1:16pm

      Re: 'Also if you could somehow shoot our competition again...'

      yea, about that...

      "Deregulation" as a word is about as useful as "Regulation" as a word. Worthless platitude yapping making you every bit as useful as Pai and a politician making empty promises.

      What kind of regulation or deregulation are we talking about here?

      Until we remove the faux natural monopoly that the FCC grants these ISP's you are wasting 100% of your time fighting for crumbs from the table.

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

      • icon
        Matthew Cline (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 5:13pm

        Re: Re: 'Also if you could somehow shoot our competition again...'

        How exactly is the FCC granting them a "faux natural monopoly"?

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

        • icon
          The Wanderer (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 8:28am

          Re: Re: Re: 'Also if you could somehow shoot our competition again...'

          His position appears to be that the primary barriers to entry into the ISP market are regulatory, and that the FCC is falsely labeling the result as being a natural monopoly, and that anyway the only purpose of such a label is to serve as justification for not properly regulating (i.e, breaking up) whatever monopoly is being labeled as "natural".

          This ignores both the other barriers to entry into that market and the fact that getting labelled as a "natural monopoly" actually opens a company up to *more* anti-monopoly regulation than not being so labelled; it just doesn't open it up to being broken up, because by the definition of "natural monopoly" the consequences of such a break-up would be worse than inaction.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 9:07pm

        Re: Re: 'Also if you could somehow shoot our competition again...'

        the faux natural monopoly that the FCC grants these ISP

        .......So it doesn't cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to start an ISP? And there is unlimited ground space to run fiber lines across public and private property?

        Wow, I never knew! Hold on guys! Guess what! ISPs aren't natural monopolies! That means I can solve our internet access issues overnight! I'll just start up a brand new ISP for a few hundred bucks, hire somebody to wire up all of America for another few hundred and we'll be good to go! Your savior has arrived!

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

  • identicon
    Jesus Christ, 1 Nov 2018 @ 1:35pm

    if it's not a monopoly

    ..then why hasn't cable box technology improved in 15 years? No competitive industry would allow those jurassic abominations to keep roaming the earth. It takes like 45 seconds to type 9 words into a search box with your remote. Every stupid action takes 2 and a half seconds to register. You can navigate 20x faster on netflix and hulu, and the selection is much better. How the hell has usability not improved in 15 years? Pathetic.

    Cable tv is obsolete. It could've stayed competitive, but the industry is a lazy fat cat. I cut the cord 10 years ago. Good riddance and great savings.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 3:17pm

    wonderful.

    Its amazing that the election bureau does not have a 'NONE of the above' vote..
    For all that the President does, or is supposed to do...
    WE dont give those OTHER JOBS, the president selects who is in charge of all these other sectors..
    How many have Quit? how many fired? how many of those sectors have anyone in charge? How many were selected by the Political CORP controlled groups..

    Many of the older people have noticed that WE, dont get to select who we vote for. Its for the FEW groups we have that have the MONEY.. Which is only about 1/3 of all the USA..gets to select WHO the RESt of us get to THINK we choose..

    All of us may KNOW that we Dont want EITHER of the selected.
    Why do we only get to select the Better of 2 evils..

    With all the claims of those THAT arnt voting, I can hardly see the 2 groups with a total of 33% of the population, getting another 20% of the people to vote, and get 53% every time..

    Bother sides are subsidized by the gov...as well as the Corps giving them money...then they create sub groups that send money to the Persons that they support..Under the table..
    WE keep electing RICH PEOPLE..those that have Never been middle class or lower..

    How can you call a group RELIGIOUS RIGHT, conservative...when the Corps are backing them to the HILT?? they have so many favors to pay back its stupid. And considering that the NEW testament is the epitomy of Socialism and communism...I REALLY dont see it.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 4:57pm

    Industry lies to their handpicked shills...
    somehow a few people still shocked that once again Lucy pulled the football away yet again....

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 7:10pm

    just the same old

    No one is ever held accountable, that is the real problem. If anyone ever gets to ask the hard questions the answers are the same....

    mumble mumble, we must look forward, mumble mumble, stronger controls need to be put in place, mumble mumble, learn from our mistakes, etc...

    Please feel free to copy and paste this post into just about any issue that the government has royally fucked up.

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

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 1 Nov 2018 @ 10:52pm

    "Instead, we got Comcast."

    LOL!

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 12:15am

    Hopefully this data will be useful in the coming court cases.

    Between the one where the DoJ is suing California for its robust net neutrality protections and the one where a dozen or so state AGs are suing the FCC, we have a lot of arguing going on about whether or not net neutrality is good, serves the public and is necessary.

    Maybe the fact that big telecoms have no qualms about lying to get free subsidy money will come into play.

    Or just that they have no qualms.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 5:44am

    Karl, I agree

    I agree, Karl, but we still need a fix. I say we start at the congressional level with:
    -Mandatory Congressional Term Limits (each congressman/woman can only serve 3 terms)
    -Constitutional Prohibition of Lobbying (a.k.a. bribery)

    These are just my suggestions at some kind of lasting fix that can't be overturned with each new presidential/congressional swing.

    Anybody else have any ideas? (haters with no counterpoints need not respond)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 7:58am

      Re: Karl, I agree

      -Mandatory Congressional Term Limits

      What exactly would this solve? Maybe it's a good idea, maybe not. If you implemented this, you'd then get the problem the FCC and presidential seat currently has, which is every 4-8 years policy flip flops back and forth with no lasting change. That's not good either.

      -Constitutional Prohibition of Lobbying

      I agree there needs to be some clamp down on lobbying, especially of the monetary kind. But what is lobbying? Is it just calling your senator? Sending a letter/email? Meeting with them? Non-monetary agreements of mutual assistance? Monetary funding? Where do you draw the line and what's the definition? And who gets to decide that definition?

      These are just my suggestions at some kind of lasting fix that can't be overturned with each new presidential/congressional swing.

      Except your first suggestion is literally giving them the ability to have things be overturned with each new presidential/congressional swing. That's what's happening right now with the Presidency and the FCC.

      Anybody else have any ideas?

      Stop voting for only two parties. Change needs to happen at the individual level, not the top of government. Only then will we actually see lasting change.

      (haters with no counterpoints need not respond)

      The only thing this is going to get you is even more haters with no counterpoints responding. It would have been better to take the high road and just leave it out.

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

      • icon
        CrushU (profile), 5 Nov 2018 @ 7:53am

        Re: Re: Karl, I agree

        Stop voting for only two parties. Change needs to happen at the individual level, not the top of government. Only then will we actually see lasting change.

        While I agree with the sentiment, because of how our voting system works, we'll be stuck in a two party system forever. With a winner take all (also called 'First past the post') system, people will naturally gravitate towards a two-party system. I believe it's backed mathematically, but I don't have those proofs on hand.

        (For more information, look for CGP Grey's Youtube videos on the topic of the 'Animal Kingdom' and how different voting systems work.)

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

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 5 Nov 2018 @ 8:58am

          First Past The Post

          It's a natural problem with one choice per voter, that you only get to choose who to vote against by voting for his most popular opponent.

          The US system is intended to be two-party in that some of the protocols discuss the minority party, but third parties don't get that additional recognition.

          There are alternative voting systems that better support multiple parties, though I'm beginning to think that it's impossible to remove corruption from campaigning and career politics, so a sortition may be our best method of appointing representatives.

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

          • icon
            cattress (profile), 6 Nov 2018 @ 1:09am

            Re: First Past The Post

            Ranked choice is an alternate system that allows voters to select third party candidates without "spoiling". Maine is using this system for federal elections-not just the primaries- for the first time so it's worth watching how it works out.

            I'm sick of the two party system too. The difficulty I see with enforcing real change is dismantling the powerful, deeply entrenched and usually very wealthy institutions that be, without causing a harm and unintended consequences.

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

            • icon
              The Wanderer (profile), 6 Nov 2018 @ 5:07am

              Re: Re: First Past The Post

              Mind, there are actually quite a few different ranked-preference voting systems out there, some of which do a much better job of leaving no room for "strategic voting" (in which voting for the candidate you really want to support isn't actually the best way to achieve your desired result - a superset of the spoiler effect) than others, and the one I understand Maine to have adopted is one of the worst in that regard.

              It's still likely to be far better than single-choice first-past-the-post, however; it simply wouldn't be as good as a proper implementation of the Condorcet method. (With some mechanism for a tiebreaker in the unlikely event of a genuine multi-candidate rock/paper/scissors who-beats-whom loop; my vote in that situation is for the flip of a coin or roll of a die, i.e., random selection from among the tied candidates.)

              In today's election (for the seats for which the system will be in use) and in the ones to come, for as long as this system is in use, Maine's elections will be worth paying attention to.

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

  • identicon
    A, 2 Nov 2018 @ 5:58am

    Blaming the American people is hardly fair. It is not their fault the government is corrupt or that it is largely ruled by the various million and billionaires when it comes to things inside the country.

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

  • identicon
    Philly Bob, 2 Nov 2018 @ 1:41pm

    It's not a lesson the US refuses to learn...
    It's a lesson that politics teaches us that our politicians do what they are paid by corporate to do.

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

  • identicon
    FelineRanger, 2 Nov 2018 @ 5:51pm

    Why is this a surprise?

    Did you really think Pai was "just joking" when he admitted to being a brainwashed Verizon puppet in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9M7bHNwgTFo?

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

  • identicon
    MrTea, 3 Nov 2018 @ 4:34pm

    Those hicks in Chattanooga Tennessee solved this for themselves by building municipal 1 Gig broadband. I know the Telecom Bigs are working furiously in the state legislatures to prevent others from doing this, but I find it most informative that a mid-American city fixed this by themselves and a bunch of university towns are fuming about lousy ISP service from The Bigs.

    Meanwhile...in Berkeley where they could have gotten it together 20 years ago, a regional ISP (Sonic.net they are absolute heroes and should be seen at the role model ISP) is installing fiber right now. Given market density, this will all get fixed. Too bad for the outlands where you are going to be stuck with choosing between suffocated and starved (ATT vs Bombast) for a long time. I've had both, and as a low-level service provider "fixer" have blown more time than I want to think about with their Customer Disservice Departments. (Sonic has live Americans who speak clear, coherent English--I wonder how long until California bans that too?)

    But recognize this situation was set up in the 90's with "Telecom Deregulation" promoted and signed by...well this guy

    From a speech by President Bill Clinton at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2000:
    "For the first time, our companies will be able to sell and distribute products in China made by workers here in America without being forced to relocate manufacturing to China, sell through the Chinese government, or transfer valuable technology — for the first time. We’ll be able to export products without exporting jobs. Meanwhile, we’ll get valuable new safeguards against any surges of imports from China."

    Anyway, in California they were fixing to ram through the "right" to jam 5G transmitters wherever they want, like in front of your house. I kind of like some semblance of local control though. Apparently it's on hold for the moment but wherever you live you might want to look into the status of this in your own state and locale.

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


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