HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! Looking for something to read instead? Check out our new Working Futures anthology »
HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! Looking for something to read instead? Check out our new Working Futures anthology »

Former FCC Boss Wheeler Says New Court Ruling Won't Stop Net Neutrality

from the it-ain't-over-'til-it's-over dept

Obama's first FCC boss Julius Genachowski was a bit of a wishy washy mess, supporting any number of conflicting ideas at any given time depending on the audience he was talking to. And while his second term pick, Tom Wheeler, initially raised eyebrows given his history of lobbying for early-era telecom companies, he wound up being one of the better FCC bosses in agency history. Granted telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast might disagree, since he was one of the only FCC bosses in recent history actually willing to stand up to them in any meaningful way.

Last week, a court (mostly) sided with the FCC in its repeal of Wheeler-era net neutrality rules. That said, the court also blocked FCC attempts to ban states from passing their own net neutrality rules, meaning the fight has simply shifted to the state level. In an overlooked piece over at the NY Times, Wheeler (who has been relatively quiet post tenure as his efforts are slowly demolished one by one in the Trump era) notes how ISPs will likely try to behave so long as the threat of state action remains:

"But the ruling did keep net neutrality alive — by overruling the agency’s claim that it could pre-empt state governments from setting out their own net neutrality requirements. The decision opens the doors for states to fill the regulatory void. Internet service providers should be quaking in their boots: As of today, they run the serious risk that they’ll have to follow a patchwork of different state requirements. The companies may not have liked the previous administration’s decision to classify them as common carriers, but that at least provided them with a uniform national policy. That is now gone."

ISPs really enjoy complaining (and will certainly be doing a lot more of it in the future) that they now have to adhere to a universe of state-level protections. But the reality is they created the problem by lobbying to kill pretty modest federal guidelines (using fraudulent data and bogus people, it should be noted). Now instead of a unified set of FCC rules (which didn't even ban problematic behavior like the abuse of usage caps as a competitive weapon), they'll have to adhere to tougher guidelines in states like California.

The FCC ban on state efforts was an integral part of Comcast/AT&T/Verizon's dream of zero meaningful oversight and, without it, it's not much of an actual victory, notes Wheeler's former advisor Gigi Sohn:

As such, the court ruling leaves the door open to net neutrality in several ways. One, states can now jump in and protect consumers. Two, the court ruling made it clear the FCC was within its authority to both pass the 2015 rules and repeal them, meaning a future FCC can simply pass the same (or better) rules all over again. And while it's unlikely under this current telecom-cash-slathered Congress, a future Congress could pass legislation (like the 3 page Save the Internet Act, which simply restores the FCC's 2015 rules) that puts meaningful rules in place permanently.

In other words, it ain't over until it's over. And every survey in existence shows that US consumers want some kind of protections in place. Disdain for anti-competitive giants is bipartisan and fairly universal. Eventually big ISPs like Comcast and AT&T won't be able to help themselves (AT&T's already quietly pushing its luck on this front), and their behaviors will only lead to even more public support for meaningful open internet rules.

Filed Under: ajit pai, fcc, net neutrality, states, states rights, tom wheeler


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2019 @ 7:12am

    Richard Bennett isn't going to like this, is he?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Oct 2019 @ 8:36am

    The problem isn't different state requirements. The ISPs already have to follow different municipal requirements. The problem is its more expensive to lobby 50 congresses than just one

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

  • icon
    CrushU (profile), 8 Oct 2019 @ 9:42am

    This sounds familiar

    Didn't the whole thing start because AT&T tried to sue and the courts said that doesn't work because the FCC doesn't technically have the right authority, come back if you're classified as Title II?

    So basically this whole thing is a series of telecoms trying to pull fast ones and shooting themselves in the foot instead?

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

  • identicon
    Whoever, 8 Oct 2019 @ 4:52pm

    ISPs' solution

    They will now lobby for some completely meaningless "regulation" which will exist purely for the purpose of pre-empting States' regulation of them.

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

    • identicon
      A Guy, 8 Oct 2019 @ 6:10pm

      Re: ISPs' solution

      If they go to far the states will just become the ISP by building it out as a state owned business. They would have to live by the federal rules lobbied into place by their predecessors but states are allowed to enter the economy as a market actor funded by taxes.

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

      • identicon
        urza9814, 10 Oct 2019 @ 7:39am

        Re: Re: ISPs' solution

        Telecom is already working -- fairly successfully -- to prevent that as well. Some states already have laws on the books prohibiting public broadband. Just search "municipal broadband" right here on Techdirt and you'll find plenty of stories about it.

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

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 9 Oct 2019 @ 8:43am

    Dingos

    "I am not a dingo."

    • Tom Wheeler

    Too bad we are stuck with Pai now, who is a dingo.

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

    • identicon
      A Guy, 9 Oct 2019 @ 8:49am

      Re: Dingos

      I love dogs and believe that is an insult to dingos.

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

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 9 Oct 2019 @ 10:27am

        Re: Re: Dingos

        FTR, the dingo thing was a reference to John Oliver, who compared putting someone who used to work for the telecom industry in charge of regulating it to having a dingo—an animal known for taking and killing human infants—babysit for you.

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

        • identicon
          A Guy, 9 Oct 2019 @ 10:40am

          Re: Re: Re: Dingos

          That has happened before because dingos are wild/feral dogs but they are all believed to be descended from domestic dogs brought when native Australian settled the continent. Pet dogs occasionally maul a child too. That's sad.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.