Killing Net Neutrality Rules Did Far More Harm Than You Probably Realize

from the none-of-this-ends-well dept

We've noted repeatedly that the repeal of net neutrality did far more than just kill popular net neutrality rules. It effectively neutered the FCC's ability to do its job and oversee lumbering natural telecom monopolies. And, contrary to the claims of the telecom lobby, it threw any remaining authority to an FTC that lacks the resources or authority to do the job either. In short the repeal gave loathed telecom giants like Comcast and AT&T carte blanche to do pretty much anything they'd like to their captive customer bases, provided they're marginally clever about it.

Here's one case in point: the previous FCC had passed some fairly basic rules requiring that ISPs be transparent about the kind of connection you're buying. As in, ISPs were required to not only inform you what kind of throttling or restrictions were on your line, but they were supposed to make it clear how many hidden fees you'd pay post sale. With those rules dead, the FCC's process now basically involves you complaining to the Ajit Pai FCC, and the agency doing jack shit about it. Under Pai's model, ISPs are allowed to bullshit you all they'd like in terms of caps, throttling, and other limits, as long as their bullshit is hidden somewhere in their website. And even that's not likely to be enforced:

And here’s where it gets even worse: ISPs aren’t actually required to display this information on their own websites, even though doing so apparently offers the advantage of being able to obscure it under a mountain of Lorem Ipsum-esque self-laudatory text. Companies may also submit their “transparency disclosures” directly to the FCC.

But whereas the Open Internet Order—the now-repealed FCC rules that established net neutrality—required ISPs to offer consumers quick access to information in a format that’s easy to digest, the method devised by Chairman Pai all but ensures that some consumers will never find it.

Another case in point from last week. Customers of Frontier Communications have been complaining that the company continues to charge them a $10 router rental fee every month, even when they own their own router. Customers who complain to the FCC are basically being told there's nothing the FCC can do:

Son filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission; Frontier responded to the complaint but stuck to its position that he has to pay the fee. A voicemail that Frontier left with Son and his wife said the company informed the FCC that "the router monthly charge is an applicable fee, and it will continue to be billed.

The FCC complaints team told Son in an email, "We reviewed the provider's response and based on the information submitted, we believe your provider has responded to your concerns." With FCC Chairman Ajit Pai having deregulated the broadband industry, there's little to no chance of the commission taking action to stop fees like the one charged by Frontier.

Take a moment to understand that. An ISP decided to charge a consumer a $10 per month router rental fee, despite the fact the customer paid $200 to own that router. When they complained to the FCC, the agency told the consumer it was no big deal and refused to help. This is life now under Ajit Pai. And when lumbering apathetic ISPs have neither competition nor competent regulatory oversight to keep them in line, they simply double down on bad behavior, knowing there's zero repercussion. Again, zero accountability was the entire point of the whole lobbying gambit.

Here's where telecom lobbyists and Ajit Pai claimed the FTC would "step in to protect consumers." But they always knew that was bullshit. The FTC's regulatory enforcement behavior is very clearly limited only to acts that are clearly "deceptive." When an ISP is looking you straight in the eye and telling you you're being screwed, there's technically nothing deceptive going on:

Even in instances where the FTC technically could act, the telecom lobby knew they'd be so inundated with other obligations (everything from monitoring accuracy in bleach labeling to policing cramming fraud), they'd take years to tackle issues--if they acted at all. The telecom lobby, in effect, told the government to neuter oversight of one of the most problematic sectors in tech, kneecapping an agency (the FCC) built specifically to monitor the sector, and the government thought that was a wonderful idea. Unless you're an inhalant addict you should probably be able to see why this could be problematic longer term.

Both examples above clearly showcase how repealing net neutrality rules will impact much more than net neutrality. And anybody still arguing that killing net neutrality rules didn't matter because the internet didn't explode (still a common refrain in some quarters), is either arguing in bad faith, doesn't understand the unique fuckery of the telecom sector, or simply has no damn idea what they're talking about.

Filed Under: customers, enforcement, fcc, ftc, modem rental fees, monopoly powers, net neutrality, oversight, transparency
Companies: frontier


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 6:40am

    I really like the ending of Wreck it Ralph. The end credits are fun. Starz, however couldn’t let me enjoy that but instead ran a commercial over it. And that sealed it for me. I pay $200 a month for TV, and I’m done with it. Five years ago I couldn’t believe that I would want to drop Cable TV, but they managed to do it.

    And Netflix informed me today my rate is increasing to $13 a month. The difference is staggering.

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

    • icon
      Oblate (profile), 8 Jul 2019 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      Maybe the cable company executives, as a class, need to be smacked in the head by Fix-it Felix's hammer. Or maybe Thor's.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 6:19pm

        Re: Re:

        You realize Fix-it Felix's hammer instantly heals whatever damage it inflicts, right?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 7:42pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          that's the joke.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 10:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Not really. I'm pretty sure Thor's hammer doesn't fix what it hits.

            And you can't fix the head of a corrupt executive, just restore it to its original level of mammon and ethical disregard. For them, fucking over the customer is a feature, not a bug.

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

        • icon
          Oblate (profile), 9 Jul 2019 @ 6:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Felix's hammer repairs broken things, regardless of who damaged them. Thus the benefit from it being applied to cable company executives' heads.

          Thor's hammer is suggested as an opposite solution.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 7:28am

    i read where Frontier continues this charge, even when a customer purchased router is concerned because it is harder and takes longer for Frontier to effect anything that might have to be done to get a customers broadband working again. however, Frontier then says that they dont deal with 'outside' routers, even those that are recommended for use on Frontier connections. so, basically, the customer is charged because they bought a, 'recommended for Frontier connections' router, even when, if anything goes wrong, Frontier refuses to do anything to get a failed connection working again! customers cant do right for doing wrong! funny how there cant be any fraud charges brought against Frontier though. i guess those who were paid in government to ensure the previous FCC protections were removed, were also paid to ensure the ISPs could do whatever they wanted, with no comeback from customers.
    i wonder if all those voters who have been screwed by what Trumps government has allowed to go on will fall for the same shit and vote him back in again?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 7:42am

      Re:

      They and other large ISPs are protected from government action by working with the government to provide unlimited access to their backbone. Bribing a few highly placed people prevents lawsuits and laws that would hamper their ability to charge you more and do less each year. The screwing over of customers is just a happy side benefit to this illegal collusion.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 8:41am

        Re: Re:

        That's true only to a point. They still have an ideal pricing point, though one which is higher than if there were competition.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      wonder if all those voters who have been screwed by what Trumps government has allowed to go on will fall for the same shit and vote him back in again?

      Yes.

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 8 Jul 2019 @ 8:16am

    Nothing you can do...

    When I moved, Spectrum was the only game in town. But at least the cable modem is FREE! Of, course, a little further questioning confirmed that the modem fee is baked into the service plan, so using your own modem won't save you any money.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 9:31am

      Re: Nothing you can do...

      Of, course, a little further questioning confirmed that the modem fee is baked into the service plan, so using your own modem won't save you any money.

      Per this article, that makes them one of the good ISPs, because at least you're not paying extra on top of the advertised price.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 8:30am

    What just happened? I was reading this article and some statements attributed to a former agency person named Powell...the screen flickered...and now I have a materially changed article where the statements I was reading have been removed.

    TD...please explain what you have done and why.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 8 Jul 2019 @ 8:38am

    Unless you're an inhalant addict you should probably be able to see why this could be problematic longer term.

    The most popular hallucinogen these days is Sean Hannity's emissions.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 8 Jul 2019 @ 11:54am

    Its time..

    Its been long enough to any ramification to happen..
    Any proof of what someone DID, or what was supposed to happen, Should have happened..

    Time to get Mr. Pai, to Prove his idea/concept, ideals..OR QUIT. Or FIRED. Or Fill in the blank.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Chicken Dinner Road, 8 Jul 2019 @ 12:29pm

    That "the internet didn't explode" is not arguing: it's FACT.

    So first of all, Techdirt / Masnick was / is / will be wrong.

    But of course you go on boasting / blathering without self-awareness that you were / are / will be wrong and that your credibility is proven low, particularly for predictions.

    neither competition nor competent regulatory oversight to keep them in line, they simply double down on bad behavior, knowing there's zero repercussion.

    CDA Section 230 actually grants immunity to corporations on top of those! Why are you for it, as certain to bring bad behavior? Do you think Google / Facebook / Twitter are fundamentally different from all other corporations?

    You provide apt answer to that question:

    Unless you're an inhalant addict you should probably be able to see why [CDA Section 230] could be problematic longer term.

    Your absolutist assertions casting any opponents as beyond reason is childish and ineffective.

    Now, again you're over-using the quaint "lumbering", and wrongly. Any adequate writer is keely aware of how frequently self and general populace use each word. You're not just "wooden" writer with sticky schtick, though. It's inhuman to re-write the same topic with the same extreme bias and the same rare inapt words for years. Your text reads like automated copy-paste. You may be just an advanced program for "heterogeneous containerized fabrication" as a buzzword program just spewed: words that mean nothing can fit anywhere.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 1:10pm

      Re:

      CDA Section 230 actually grants immunity to corporations on top of those!

      No, it just enshrines common sense in law that shouldn't need to be enshrined in law, namely that you have to go after the people who actually did something wrong and not try to find a scapegoat and hold an innocent third party responsible for something they didn't do.

      Why are you for it, as certain to bring bad behavior?

      Because you don't understand Section 230 or the First Amendment, so it doesn't actually do what you think it does.

      Do you think Google / Facebook / Twitter are fundamentally different from all other corporations?

      I'm sure he doesn't, I know I don't, which is why we are in favor of 230, since it provides the same protections to online corporations as offline corporations.

      You provide apt answer to that question:

      Thank you for admitting that you are high and don't understand what the hell you are talking about.

      Your absolutist assertions casting any opponents as beyond reason is childish and ineffective.

      As is every single one of your posts.

      Now, again you're over-using the quaint "lumbering", and wrongly.

      How would you know? Considering you can't even spell "keenly":

      Any adequate writer is keely aware

      writer with sticky schtick

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! That's great! I love it. Can I use it?

      It's inhuman to re-write the same topic with the same extreme bias and the same rare inapt words for years.

      No one is forcing you or anyone else to read it. It's only "inhumane" if someone is forcing you too.

      Your text reads like automated copy-paste.

      English teachers would disagree.

      You may be just an advanced program for "heterogeneous containerized fabrication" as a buzzword program just spewed: words that mean nothing can fit anywhere.

      Well actually, actual words ALWAYS have meanings. Since he hasn't invented any, all of his fit and have meaning. Unlike your posts which actually could be auto-generated given the EXTREME bad grammar.

      Take your "sticky schtick" elsewhere.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 8 Jul 2019 @ 1:17pm

      It's inhuman to re-write the same topic with the same extreme bias and the same rare inapt words for years.

      And yet, here you are.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 8 Jul 2019 @ 4:47pm

      Re: That "the internet didn't explode" is not arguing: it's FACT

      CDA Section 230 actually grants immunity to corporations on top of those!

      Only for actions not done by the companies themselves.

      Why are you for it, as certain to bring bad behavior?

      Because it's solely about putting the liability on the correct party. It is not immunity for the companies' own bad actions.

      Do you think Google / Facebook / Twitter are fundamentally different from all other corporations?

      Not in the slightest. I don't think those companies need any special protections at all. But Section 230 is not a special protection. It's merely an effort to apply liability properly.

      But this has been explained to you dozens of times before and you still mischaracterize the law. I do wonder why.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 6:24pm

      Re:

      That "the internet didn't explode" is not arguing: it's FACT.

      Hey, you're right.

      At the same time the music and film industries still exist. That's FACT. So piracy isn't a problem, right?

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

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 8 Jul 2019 @ 12:51pm

    Do you still get charged a router rental fee if you don't even have a router? (this is assuming that the router is separate from the cable modem)

    Yes I know it's really hard to believe, but it is still possible in 2019 to not have an entire house full of internet connected devices.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2019 @ 1:26pm

      Re:

      Yes I know it's really hard to believe, but it is still possible in 2019 to not have an entire house full of internet connected devices.

      Uh, that really has nothing to do with whether or not you have a router. And just to note, most cable companies sell an integrated modem/router these days.

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

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 12 Jul 2019 @ 10:55pm

        Re: Re:

        Uh, that really has nothing to do with whether or not you have a router.

        If you only have a single computer connected to the net, you don't need a router.

        And just to note, most cable companies sell an integrated modem/router these days.

        Yes, that's why I said assuming it was a modem/router combo.

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

  • identicon
    Dave, 9 Jul 2019 @ 12:34am

    Gee… Looks like you're going to have to stop paying your cable bills to get their attention.

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

  • identicon
    Kevin Hayden, 9 Jul 2019 @ 12:54pm

    Count your blessings

    Maybe you should all count your blessings that they haven't found a way to charge you for not subscribing to their service yet, although I'm fairly certain they have an army of MBAs (My Bonus Awaits) working on it.

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


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