Pai's FCC Crushes Rules That Brought More Broadband Competition To San Francisco

from the look-mom-I'm-helping dept

While many appointments of the Trump administration lack even marginal competence to complete the duties for which they're assigned, the same can't be said of FCC boss Ajit Pai. While Pai's industry-cozy policies may be historically unpopular, the efficiency with which Pai has dismantled telecom consumer protections (and FCC authority in general) can't be denied. Having been a vanilla commissioner for years before being appointed agency head, Pai knows precisely which rules to demolish--and how to obtain the maximum benefit for his core constituents: AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Charter Spectrum.

Gutting net neutrality, killing efforts to bring competition to the cable box, even weakening the definition of competition to aid industry incumbents are but a taste of what Pai has been up to the last few years. Many of these efforts are subtle enough to fall under the radar, even if the impact of the decisions are profoundly negative. Case in point: last week, the FCC announced that the agency would soon vote on whether to preempt a San Francisco city ordinance designed to promote broadband competition in apartments, condos, and other multi-unit buildings.

Article 52, first passed in December of 2016, allows ISPs to use existing building wiring to serve customers, even if it's being used by another ISP. The ruling effectively created an "open access" model inside of San Francisco buildings to help drive a bit more broadband competition. Part of the provision prevents landlords from signing exclusivity deals with incumbent ISPs, something that's been a problem (one the FCC refused to seriously address) for decades (there's a great primer on this here by Susan Crawford).

Enter Ajit Pai, whose new proposal would pre-empt San Francisco's ordinance as a favor to industry incumbents who don't like the added competition. And, like so many things Pai does (the "restoring internet freedom" net neutrality repeal comes quickly to mind), his office tried to claim the proposal does the exact opposite of what it actually does:

"Despite its primary goal of eliminating a rule that gives ISPs access to multi-unit buildings, Pai's proposal is titled, "Improving Competitive Broadband Access to Multi-Tenant Environments." In addition to immediately preempting the San Francisco ordinance, the proposal seeks public comment on other "actions the Commission could take to accelerate the deployment of next-generation networks and services within" multi-tenant complexes. Any further rule changes coming from this proceeding likely wouldn't involve sharing of infrastructure, as the Pai plan argues that ISPs "are less likely to invest in deployment" if they know they have to share network components with other providers."

Of course after Pai loves to trot out claims that something will "boost sector investment," even if we've already seen how those promises are just hot air designed to obfuscate the real agenda: protecting incumbent ISP revenues from absolutely any competitive challenge. This shtick where ISPs lobby for "pre-emptive" federal guidelines is also fairly common. The broader rules they lobby for almost always wind up having so many loopholes as to be useless, because the entire point was to pre-empt tougher local or state ordinances lobbyists didn't want. It lets you kill policies off you don't like--without making it obvious that's what you're doing.

Consumer groups, like the EFF, were unsurprisingly unimpressed:

While efforts like this see little to no press coverage (in part because Pai's good at disguising policies as the opposite of what they actually are), the cumulative impact of Pai's tenure will, ultimately, be profound and severe. But because it's going to be felt most by lower income folks already struggling to get and pay for broadband, it will net a fraction of the attention reserved for numerous other tech policy conversations.

Filed Under: ajit pai, competition, fcc, open access, pre-emption, san francisco


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 6:22am

    Question. In the past how successful are states at overturning

    the FCC in decisions like this? Does the FCC actually have the authority to override the consumer protections?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 8:56am

      Re: Question. In the past how successful are states at overturni

      No, it doesn't. It also doesn't have the authority to ignore consumers and change policy to suit the corporate hegemony that is now controlling Pai. If I were a person with access to all of his electronic dealings, I would release it in a heartbeat, then suffer whatever punishments the powers that be can come up with. Regulatory capture is bad for everyone.

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

      • identicon
        Pixelation, 28 Jun 2019 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re: Question. In the past how successful are states at overt

        Agreed. We can only hope Pai's corruption gets exposed. The best gift in the world would be to see him rotting next to Elizabeth Pierce.

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

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 6:32am

    Problem

    People pay $40 a month for gigabit fiber service here and we have a small handful of not Comcast/AT&T ISPs that compete for customers thanks to the SF ordinance.

    It's a big problem for the ISP's who have to compete. They wrote Pai some big checks and they expect him to take big action to stop this shit.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 7:19am

    According to ars technica, the house is trying to do its job, and block Ajits plan.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 8:32am

      Re:

      It was weird to me to see the Ars article first, and THEN the TechDirt article. Good to document Pai's dirty work, but... worthwhile adding the bit where Congress is actively moving to block his plan too.

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

      • icon
        Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 9:21am

        Re: Re:

        Congress? Or just the House? The Senate has been a graveyard for good ideas from the House, whether it is today's Democratic House trying to curb the corruption of Ajit Pai, or the Republican House of Darryl Issa trying to curb patent trolls in 2014.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 7:34am

    I thought the FCC gave up it's authority?

    How does the FCC have this authority over ISP's since they shoveled most of that over to the FTC?

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

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 7:43am

    They gave up any authority to protect consumers. They retained all authority to do what they're paid to do and give consumers the sharp end of the stick right up the ass.

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

  • icon
    JonC (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 8:10am

    Why don't we save the American people some money? We can cut the FCC and just let the ISPs run things. They do already anyway.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 8:25am

    read something about 'House votes to block Ajit Pai’s plan to kill San Francisco broadband law'. the story is on ars***a.com

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 10:18am

      Re:

      So, an hour before you posted this, another poster made the same comment, but actually linked to the content, rather than obfusicating it. I wonder what your goal was? perhaps to try to claim that you mentioning the article with more info was censored? because this kind of comment, that claims some sort of secret info is gonna get flagged. Or maybe you plan to claim that techdirt censored the website directly? whatever it is, it can't be you acting in good faith.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 8:54am

    the cycle

    1.lobbyist (bribing politicians for laws in favor of corporation)
    2.politician (passing laws in favor of corporation)
    3.(after being voted out) lobbyist again
    Aji[n]t Pai[d] is just building up his resume. Nothing new to see here.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 9:23am

    What ever happened to states rights?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2019 @ 1:34pm

    He’s serving his constituents.
    He knows exactly exactly what he’s doing. There is no ignorance in what he does when he does things like this.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 1:44pm

    anyone notice?

    The last 10 presidents...
    6 repub..
    4 demo..
    How long did it take to get 10 presidents??
    Think this tells us Which side they are on??

    Funny thing is that SOME of those repub, were pretty good.. but whats happened to our laws?

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 28 Jun 2019 @ 2:57pm

    Lyin' [GO]Pai,

    Up yours. See you in court.

    San Francisco

    (film at 11)

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

  • icon
    Stephan Kinsella (profile), 28 Jun 2019 @ 4:51pm

    So you at techdirt have no free market or property principles

    at all. It's all just technocratic chirping; no principles at all.

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

  • icon
    Gerald Robinson (profile), 29 Jun 2019 @ 9:41am

    Blame the right guys

    Yes the president has a lot of influence with the FCC, BUT it is a creature of Congress and they are largely to blame for the mess! If you don't like the results then Congressional term limits are a partial answer. A more immediate answer is to track your Congress critters voted and let them know what you think. Activism by the voting public will help fix things. The problem is pervasive and bipartisan!

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

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 1 Jul 2019 @ 8:17am

      Re: Blame the right guys

      If you don't like the results then Congressional term limits are a partial answer.

      While congressional term limits would mean we could get rid of guys like McConnell (and let's be honest, you keep saying "Congress" but you're talking about Mitch McConnell), the downside of removing experienced political operators is that you end up with an inexperienced Congress that relies even more on lobbyists to make decisions. Probably not the result you're looking for.

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

  • icon
    Gerald Robinson (profile), 29 Jun 2019 @ 2:24pm

    You mean that they wrote some big "campaign contributions" to Ca liberal democrats, and promised members of the FCC big paying jobs when they get tired of their government boondoggle !

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2019 @ 9:21am

    Don't put words in my mouth!

    When I say Congress that's what I mean. The rot is bipartisan and pervasive. As for inexperienced Congressmen and lobbyists and partisan staff that remains a set of problems needing a solution!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2019 @ 5:49pm

    Hey wait a second. You mean to tell me 1G is $40 ? 100M is $65.99 for Charter 65 miles south of SF. Talk about cost of living differences. Or Cost of doing business differences? Which is it Charter Communications?
    Spectrum Internet Gig = $125.99. Oh how "they" must not like competition.

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


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