from the here-we-go-again dept
With the Biden FCC now having a voting majority, the telecom industry is clearly worried about the agency’s plans to restore popular net neutrality rules stripped away by the Trump administration.
To prep the lobbying field, the industry has started using its various proxy groups to seed the press with a bunch of bullshit arguments about net neutrality. Like this piece over at The Hill by the telecom-industry-funded “Innovation and Technology Policy Center,” which claims that dismantling net neutrality “saved the internet,” and that restoring the rules would harm the “vibrant and competitive” U.S. broadband market.
Or this story and associated telecom industry funded white paper by “two former Obama-era solicitors general” (who coincidentally now lobby for the telecom industry at their respective law firms) falsely claiming that the FCC lacks the authority to pursue net neutrality (courts have repeatedly stated they do).
The study basically argues that because the Supreme Court wants to lobotomize all federal regulatory authority via its looming Chevron deference ruling (something the telecom industry lobbied in favor for), the FCC shouldn’t even bother to try to restore net neutrality rules. It’s industry-funded bullshit, pushed by an industry that wants the FCC to remain a toothless marionette to monopoly power.
Numerous news outlets run this kind of industry propaganda without disclosing the authors’ financial ties to the telecom industry. But Bloomberg ran the op-ed, and then for good measure “reported” on their own op-ed as if it was factual, objective news. Only days later, after Bloomberg was criticized by outlets like The American Prospect, did Bloomberg reveal the study was funded by industry in a correction:
Bloomberg editors still somehow didn’t note that both study authors work for law firms that do policy and lobbying work for the telecom industry.
This is, of course, a fairly tried and true tactic by the telecom lobby. Make up some stuff, then get lazy or editorially feckless news outlets to seed the ideas in the public discourse without important context (like, oh, that the whole white paper is a policy and PR ploy designed to confuse everyone, or that it’s directly funded by telecom monopolies with zero credibility on public interest policy).
While it’s true that ruling Supreme Court cases could (further) lobotomize U.S. regulatory power, long time telecom policy guru Harold Feld is quick to point out that when the courts have discussed the “major questions doctrine” or Chevron deference, they’ve specifically given the FCC more leeway than other federal regulators when it comes to expertise-based rulemaking authority:
“One of the most important rulings relied upon by the courts regarding this doctrine is a 2005 case Gonzales v. Oregon, which blocked the Attorney General via the Drug Enforcement Agency from regulating doctors’ prescriptions under the public interest standard. In that ruling, the Court went out of its way to note that, while Congress delegated limited powers to the DEA, the FCC was an example of an agency that had far more expansive powers via its writ from Congress.”
So yes, the FCC should still pursue net neutrality, especially if it’s not going to bother to try and tackle telecom industry monopoly power more directly. And yes, net neutrality still matters, despite what the uninformed folks in the cheap seats like to suggest. Telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter are just seeding the press with bullshit in the hopes of killing any reform before it begins.