from the lying-liars-and-the-liars-that-love-them dept
Earlier this year net neutrality opponents (read: US telecom monopolies and those who love them) used veterans as a cheap prop to unfairly demonize California’s shiny new net neutrality law. California’s net neutrality law bans “zero rating,” or the act of imposing bullshit, arbitrary usage caps, then exempting an ISP’s own content (or the content of any individual organization or company) from them. The reason for the ban? Caps are artificial constructs, and exempting select content from them tilts the internet playing field in favor of an ISP or deep-pocketed companies.
The prohibition is a good thing, in that it thwarts companies like AT&T or Comcast from exempting their own streaming content from caps, while still penalizing customers of competing streaming services (something AT&T has been doing for several years). It also prohibits letting a company like ESPN pay AT&T to exempt its own content from caps and obnoxious overage fees, ensuring they only apply to smaller sports media startups or competitors. It’s an issue of fair competition.
Last month, the telecom industry clearly leaked a letter to Politico sent by two anonymous broadband providers (I believe to be T-Mobile and Verizon) to the VA, warning them that California’s net neutrality law might ban veteran access to a healthcare app dubbed VA Video Connect. The issue: VA Video Connect is exempted from wireless and fixed broadband usage caps, providing veterans with a little financial relief for using it. So it technically violates the California law (not that California enforcers would actually act on it), and the VA was simply asking questions about what happens next.
But here’s the thing: usage caps are bullshit constructs in the first place. They serve no technical function, and aren’t helpful in managing network load or congestion. They’re created by ISPs as a way to not only nickel-and-dime consumers and competing businesses, but to put themselves in an unwarranted position of control. As such, the whole model of exempting some content from such arbitrary restrictions is equally bullshit. And while the VA agreement does violate California’s law, the workaround is simple: simply give veterans a discount off their entire mobile bill. Problem solved.
But because this is difficult for Luddites to understand, the GOP and its political operatives quickly pounced on the issue to exploit it, falsely claiming that “veterans were being cut off from essential healthcare.” That message soon popped up everywhere in GOP-friendly news outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, among telecom backed think tanks, and in the mouths of FCC Commissioners like Brendan Carr. As somebody who’s covered telecom for longer than I’d like, it’s clear the entire thing was coordinated by industry lobbyists/policy wonks from the start.
This week, GOP lawmakers sent a letter to FCC boss Jessica Rosenworcel again using this non-issue to try and warn the FCC away from restoring net neutrality:
“Almost immediately after California enforced this law, two Internet providers reportedly told the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that the law could force them to end arrangements with U.S. wireless carriers that enable veterans to access a free, mobile telehealth app called VA Video Connect…We cannot risk losing lifesaving programs like VA Video Connect by imposing heavy handed regulations under Title II of the Communications Act.”
Again, vets aren’t losing access to anything. The app in question will just no longer be zero rated because zero rating is ISP-crafted bullshit. And the VA and providers could simply give veterans a discount off their entire bill. It’s not an problem, and using veterans as a political prop to try and stall some basic regulatory oversight of widely disliked telecom monopolies is just grotesque.
But the GOP literally has a fifteen year track record of simply lying about what net neutrality is or what it does, most notably the bogus claim that net neutrality somehow harmed industry investment. And despite this claim of “net neutrality is hurting veterans!” being total nonsense, it will be repeated for months and years to come as the gospel reality, parroted by all of the GOP loyal news outlets and lawmakers, until it lodges in the brains of people (and some reporters!) who don’t know any better.