Remaining FCC Commissioners Promise To Gut Net Neutrality 'As Soon As Possible'

from the nice-knowin'-ya dept

We've already noted how large ISPs are licking their chops on reports that the incoming Trump-led FCC plans to not only gut net neutrality, but to defang and defund the FCC also. Most of Trump's telecom advisors have direct ties to telecom; one, former Sprint lobbyist Mark Jamison, doesn't think telecom monopolies are real. Verizon lawyer turned current FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is rumored to be the most likely candidate for future FCC boss, and just last week proclaimed that net neutrality's days are numbered under Trump.

Just in case the nation's incumbent ISPs didn't get the message that "happy days are here again" for Comcast, AT&T and friends, Pai and fellow FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly penned a letter this week to the telecom industry's five largest lobbying groups, proudly proclaiming that the new FCC will attempt to put net neutrality on the chopping block "as soon as possible":
"[W]e will seek to revisit [the disclosure] requirements, and the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding more broadly, as soon as possible," they wrote, referring to the order that imposed net neutrality rules and reclassified ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Pai and O'Rielly noted that they "dissented from the Commission's February 2015 Net Neutrality decision, including the Order's imposition of unnecessary and unjustified burdens on providers."

Pai and O'Rielly will have a 2-1 Republican majority on the FCC after the departure of Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler on January 20. Pai previously said that the Title II net neutrality order's "days are numbered" under Trump, while O'Rielly said he intends to "undo harmful policies" such as the Title II reclassification."
Of course if you've actually paid attention you'll recall that net neutrality has broad, bipartisan support among consumers, and companies like Comcast have let slip that neutrality -- and the shift to Title II -- really have had little actual impact on their businesses despite ample hand-wringing among sector giants. And of course the rollback of Title II won't just impact net neutrality, it would hamstring the FCC as broadband consumer watchdog entirely, demolishing efforts like the FCC's recently passed privacy rules that simply require ISPs are transparent about data collection and provide working opt-out tools.

This disconnect between what consumers want and what ISPs want will prove tricky for Pai and friends, who'll face major bureaucratic difficulties and a significant activist backlash in trying to roll back the rules. Doing so will require a lengthy, new comment period, during which the media and activists would only highlight how Pai and O'Rielly are undermining the very innovation they often pay empty lip service to.

As such, you can expect some impressive theatrics in the new year. This will likely come in the form of a Communications Act rewrite or another bill that professes to adore net neutrality, but actively works to undermine the entire concept via the law. Much like the eleventh hour faux-neutrality bill pushed last year by Senator John Thune and Representative Fred Upton, this legislation will almost certainly contain ample, intentional loopholes, will only ban the most egregious violations (like outright banning websites, which no ISPs would do), and will act to formally make non-net neutrality the law of the land.

It will then attempt to declare the matter settled, ignoring the lack of competition that makes such violations possible in the first place. This kind of net neutrality trojan horse is something Wheeler warned about last week when he announced his January 20 resignation as current boss of the agency:
"Wheeler mostly declined to speak about the Trump administration's potential policies but said he hopes that net neutrality rules that forbid blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization will survive. One possibility is for Congress to eliminate Wheeler's net neutrality rules and impose a new, weaker version. "I hope that if there is legislation, that it is net neutrality in more than name," and "not some kind of false labeling where net neutrality rules are actually gutted under the name of being net neutrality," Wheeler said."
Whatever form this new proposal takes you can be certain it will feature breathless adoration of consumers, innovation, and broadband competition -- while actively undermining all three.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 6:50am

    "And of course the rollback of Title II won't just impact net neutrality, it would hamstring the FCC as broadband consumer watchdog entirely, demolishing efforts like the FCC's recently passed privacy rules that simply require ISPs are transparent about data collection and provide working opt-out tools."

    Cause they have been doing just a bang up job so far amiright? The FCC was originally designed to be a paid whore for the industry. Ever since 'The Dingo' tried to do something about it we all got a front row seat learning who really owns the FCC.

    This problem is not going away because the solutions that are being proposed are just as bad or worse than the destruction of the FCC. The new rules sucked, the FCC was still weak, and the FTC did not give a shit. The industry ran over and wined to Congress and the FCC was blocked. The citizens bitch an moan, but still keep their congress critters for the most part and instead fawn and flop over who the next president will be like a bunch of obtuse and clueless political sycophants.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 7:18am

      Re:

      You come to every comments section and bitch about how the FCC needs to be destroyed, but that you want a proper regulatory body in its place. I really don't understand how you are crazy enough to think that fixing the FCC is the less preferable alternative to tearing down and recreating a regulatory agency...

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

      • identicon
        cabwest, 21 Dec 2016 @ 7:56am

        Regulators are Divine

        OK... so the popular position here is that the FCC's "Net Neutrality" rules are wonderful & sacred -- and must be constantly praised and reflexively defended.

        What is ignored is that this Net-Neutrality is a major new expansion of Federal government power & control over the internet -- which is exactly opposite to the claimed purposes of Net-Neutrality (an open internet with free expression, content and innovation).

        The FCC now established that only "legal content" is permissible on U.S. fixed and mobile internet; "illegal" content will necessarily be prohibited and punished. Guess who now can decide what is legal & illegal content on the internet --- a few unelected and unaccountable FCC chair-warmers.

        Tremendous police powers of cultural & political censorship and internet economic control have now been handed to FCC employees. That is not an 'open-internet' recipe, as so many people believe Net-Neutrality will deliver.

        If you completely trust the Federal government and love how the FCC has greatly benefited citizens over the past century... then all is well with Net-Neutrality.
        But if you think otherwise... perhaps Net-Neutrality has a few serious flaws that must be fixed.

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

        • icon
          killthelawyers (profile), 21 Dec 2016 @ 8:13am

          Re: Regulators are Divine

          Net neutrality is not focused on the content of the message and service; rather, it is focused on the competitive advantage an ISP gives to itself or those from whom it is able to extract a price. That has literally nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with preventing anti-competitive practices.

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

          • identicon
            cabwest, 21 Dec 2016 @ 9:06am

            Regulators are Divine

            ... your opinion on the "focus" of Net-Neutrality carries no legal weight.

            The exact wording of the Net-Neutrality legal documents does.

            The FCC clearly states that "legal content" is now the only standard for permissible internet content. FCC tomorrow could declare all streaming-music on the internet as non-legal content, or same with R-rated movies, or Scientology teachings... the possibilities are endless with that kind of regulatory power.

            You see no problem at all with that now because you are unfamiliar with the sordid history of FCC.

            Power corrupts. Think 10 or 20 years down the road and what creative politicians could do with this open-ended power.

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

            • icon
              killthelawyers (profile), 21 Dec 2016 @ 11:20am

              Re: Regulators are Divine

              Well, except that such content-focused restrictions would fall under strict scrutiny and would be struck down by the courts very quickly because they are not narrowly tailored.

              So, to reply, your uninformed opinion on the law carries no weight.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Dec 2016 @ 5:55am

              Re: Regulators are Divine

              Perhaps you are looking at some legalize on some document about laws which address "net neutrality"

              while others are talking about wtf the term actually means.

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

        • identicon
          Baron von Robber, 21 Dec 2016 @ 8:22am

          Re: Regulators are Divine

          "Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003, as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier, which was used to describe the role of telephone systems.[1][2][3][4]"
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality

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

        • icon
          CK20XX (profile), 21 Dec 2016 @ 8:28am

          Re: Regulators are Divine

          I know, right? The government can't do anything right, so it's really bad when they're allowed to regulate anything, like...

          - The public power monopoly that provides us all our electricity
          - The municipal water utilities that provide us clean water
          - The national weather service that provides us regular forecasts
          - The national aeronautics and space administration that launches satellites into space that perform all manner of useful functions
          - The US department of agriculture that provides us safe food
          - The food and drug administration that ensures we don't kill ourselves with our pills
          - The national institute of standards and technology, the US naval observatory, and the US congress that help ensure all our clocks run accurately
          - The national highway traffic safety administration that makes sure all our cars do not come from Honest Jon's Dealership
          - The local, state, and federal departments of transportation that maintain our roadways
          - The environmental protection agency that ensures our gasoline is of proper quality
          - The federal reserve bank that issues legal tender
          - The fire marshal's inspections and the local and state building codes that make sure our houses remain standing
          - The local police departments that ensure our houses are not mysteriously empty when we return to them

          I mean, the only other explanation is that some political group has been pushing propaganda that all forms of government are bad and inherently corrupt, except for the forms they provide. And you'd have to be a real sucker to fall for something like that.

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

          • identicon
            I.T. Guy, 21 Dec 2016 @ 8:57am

            Re: Re: Regulators are Divine

            - The public power monopoly that provides us all our electricity

            In case you didn't know it has been deregulated and I highly suggest if you can, go choose another power provider. They will be more than happy to lock you into an "introductory rate" which happens to be a bit higher than the ole public power monopoly you were paying, then after the introductory period expires watch your bill increase 300%, and when asked why, the electric provider will cite "market fluctuations" but when called out on that no market had fluctuated 300 FUKING PERCENT... ahem, excuse me. That no market had changed to account for a 300% increase in the electric charge, they will then cite their representatives saying they said you were paying a varying rate. As if all utilities don't have a varying rate.

            Long story long, and 3 reports to the FTC later the charges were reduced to a fair market rate and I was never so happy to go back to the public power monopoly that provides energy.

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

            • icon
              CK20XX (profile), 21 Dec 2016 @ 9:05am

              Re: Re: Re: Regulators are Divine

              Actually I think it's better to invest in solar panels on your roof.

              Cool story though. People these days have forgotten that government regulation is mandatory for a lot of a country's basic functions. When you deregulate things... well, you already know from experience what happens.

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

        • identicon
          Michael, 21 Dec 2016 @ 9:00am

          Re: Regulators are Divine

          "What is ignored is that this Net-Neutrality is a major new expansion of Federal government power & control over the internet"

          I'm not trying to pile on, because I am also a "less government / regulation is probably better" kind of person, but The umbrella that Title II put over the ISP's was in an already heavily regulated area and did far less to expand the regulations than it did to simply add clarity to them. In addition, the ISP's themselves had already been (and continued to) treat their services under Title II when it was beneficial to them but pretend it did not apply when it was inconvenient.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 5:55pm

            Re: Re: Regulators are Divine

            It's hardly a major new expansion.

            Not even a minor one. Funny how no real world examples are given, you are just supposed to believe it.

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

        • identicon
          Thad, 21 Dec 2016 @ 1:04pm

          Re: Regulators are Divine

          OK... so the popular position here is that the FCC's "Net Neutrality" rules are wonderful & sacred -- and must be constantly praised and reflexively defended.

          Bullshit.

          Try again, without the strawman.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 5:51pm

          Re: Regulators are Divine

          If net neutrality is to be scrapped and an ISP is allowed to do what ever it so pleases, then it follows that all hurdles to ISP market entry by new entities will be removed and competition in the marketplace will be actively encouraged. Otherwise you are asking for an economic disaster.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 Dec 2016 @ 1:09am

            Re: Re: Regulators are Divine

            Wher to start, you do not understand want net neutrality is about.

            It is a means whereby the ISP is stopped from from deciding what services and content you can get to over the connection that they give you. It has very little to directly do with provision of the connection, as without net neutrality, every provider of a connection could decide which services and content you can use, and divide up the Internet in such a fashion that you need a service from all of them to experience the complete Internet.

            Also, and zero rating is the start, an ISP can create bundles of Internet services and content, and charge you for every bundle, and you can be sure that they will put the popular services in different bundles, so that they can sell you more bundles.

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 21 Dec 2016 @ 7:17am

    This is what they call transparency.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 7:42am

    It's frustrating how much of a Sisyphean task it is to get anything pro-consumer, pro-public passed and how fast and easy it is for money to erase it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 8:14am

    Pai is just another industry-paid shill who should not be at the FCC. His current term expires May 14, 2017. There is no reason he should be receiving a paycheck from our "government of the people, by the people, for the people" past that date.

    O'Reilly's term expires November 4, 2018.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 21 Dec 2016 @ 9:13am

    Forget Net Neutrality

    Dear FCC,

    I do not seem to be getting enough spam robocalls. As a concerned citizen I want to urge you to take measures to improve this situation.

    Please help me FCC, you're my only hope.

    Sincerely,

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

  • identicon
    Robert L, 21 Dec 2016 @ 9:16am

    Telecom monopolies may not be real...

    but when you compare the relatively few telecom players along with the fact that a vast majority of people live in areas where they have little or no choice of provider against the vast landscape of companies that rely on this infrastructure to reach their clients or provide their services, this infrastructure must be protected from abuse by those who control it. The amount of 'innovation' that takes place in the service provider space is almost insignificant in comparison to that which takes place or could possibly take place by those companies that rely on it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 6:00pm

      Re: Telecom monopolies may not be real...

      "Telecom monopolies may not be real..."

      what?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Dec 2016 @ 2:47am

        Re: Re: Telecom monopolies may not be real...

        A duopoly is "technically" not a monopoly. But in the US you often have a city divided between the two companies in such a way that if you live in a certain area it is a monopoly because they colluded to to enter eachoter's turf.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2016 @ 12:26pm

    My guess is that the Trump administration and the Republicans will push through a truck load of heinous laws and rule changes and this gets buried underneath. I fully expect a multi pronged attack on all institutions with net neutrality being gutted under the guise of "across the aisle" compromise because no matter what happens the plutocracy always win.

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


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