from the round-and-round-we-go dept
Last October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FCC was within its authority when it buckled to telecom providers and eliminated not only the agency’s net neutrality rules, but its authority over telecom providers. The ruling was a mixed blessing for big ISPs like Comcast and AT&T however, given that while it eliminated the federal guidance, it blocked the FCC from banning states from passing their own consumer protections. As a result, the telecom sector now faces a sometimes discordant patchwork of state protections, a problem of the industry’s own making.
Fast forward to late last week, when Mozilla and a coalition of consumer groups petitioned the court to rehear the case. A press release from Mozilla proclaims the appeal is driven by the belief that the court ruling conflicts with D.C. Circuit or Supreme Court precedent, and the court failed to seriously contemplate the fact that the repeal itself was built on a foundation of false allegations and bogus data (namely the provably false claim that the repeal was necessary because sector investment was harmed):
“We explain why we believe the Court can in fact overturn the FCC?s new treatment of broadband service despite some of the deciding judges? belief that Supreme Court precedent prevents rejection of what they consider a nonsensical outcome. In addition, we point out that the Court should have done more than simply criticize the FCC?s assertion that existing antitrust and consumer protection laws are sufficient to address concerns about market harm without engaging in further analysis. We also note inconsistencies in how the FCC handled evidence of market harm, and the Court?s upholding of the FCC?s approach nonetheless.”
As we’ve noted a few times now, the repeal of net neutrality did far more than just repeal controversial net neutrality rules. It gutted FCC authority over anti-competitive ISPs, shoveling any remaining authority to an FTC that lacks the resources or authority to seriously hold telecom accountable (the entire reason the industry lobbied so intensely for the repeal in the first place). That means the FCC is not just AWOL when it comes to things like net neutrality, but from protecting consumers from a rotating crop of anti-consumer behaviors.
I recently wrote a lengthy piece explaining why those who proclaim that the “net neutrality repeal didn’t matter because the internet still works” are only advertising their own ignorance as to the broader impact of the move.
And while states are (for now) free to step in to try and fill the consumer protection void, fewer than half of US States have actually done so, meaning there’s currently little to nothing seriously protecting consumers from predatory telecom monopolies across a notable segment of America, precisely as telecom lobbyists and executives intended.