FCC Ignores The Courts, Finalizes Facts-Optional Repeal Of Net Neutrality
from the unserious people dept
Just about a year ago the courts partially upheld the FCC’s hugely unpopular net neutrality repeal. But it also kicked some aspects of the repeal back to the FCC. Most notably, the courts stated the Ajit Pai FCC couldn’t ban states from protecting consumers if the FCC is no longer interested in doing so. The courts also noted that the FCC (surprise!) did little to no research into how the repeal would impact public safety or efforts to bridge the digital divide (the latter being kind of important in a massive pandemic in which affordable access is essential to survival) and urged the agency to try again.
Knowing full well the polls suggest their good times may soon be coming to an end, the FCC this week voted along party lines (pdf) to ignore the court’s complaint, pat itself on the back for a job well done, and double down on its Orwellian-titled “Restoring Internet Freedom” repeal. With no changes to it whatsoever:
“After thoroughly reviewing the record compiled in response to its request for additional comment on these issues, the FCC found no basis to alter the FCC’s conclusions in the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The Order on Remand finds that the Restoring Internet Freedom Order promotes public safety, facilitates broadband infrastructure deployment by Internet service providers, and allows the FCC to continue to provide Lifeline support for broadband Internet access service.”
Again, despite chirping from some “experts,” the repeal of net neutrality mattered. It not only killed off consumer protections, it hamstrung the FCC’s ability to protect consumers and competitors from entrenched telecom monopolies. It shoveled much of this authority to an FTC telecom giants like Comcast and AT&T know full well lacked the authority, funds, or willpower to properly police one of the more problematic sectors in all of tech. That was the entire goal: zero accountability for widely disliked telecom monopolies. Anybody who claims the repeal “must not of mattered because the internet still works” is advertising their immense ignorance as to the chain of problems this obvious regulatory capture created for consumers and competitors alike.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, in her own statement, lambasted the agency’s unsurprising hubris:
“The decision before us today was an opportunity to step back in. It was an opportunity to rethink this agency’s rollback of net neutrality from top to bottom and front to back. I regret that it is not. Instead, it is a set of three cobbled-together arguments designed to tell the court to go away, the public that we are not interested in their opinion, and history that we lack the humility to admit our mistake.”
Again, keep in mind that the entirety of the FCC’s justification for repealing net neutrality is based completely on fabricated data from the telecom sector. The supposed benefits of the repeal? Also completely fabricated. And the repeal itself involved the broadband industry using fake and/or dead people to stuff the FCC comment section with bogus support with the FCC’s help. Nobody, on absolutely any level, has been held accountable for any of this. In fact, when many journalists and pundits talk about the repeal, most of these facts are routinely ignored.
This is all before you even get to Ajit Pai’s blistering hypocrisy in the subsequent Section 230 attacks. The same folks who repeatedly claimed that natural telecom monopolies shouldn’t be treated as a common carrier, have pivoted 180 to claim that non-dominant social media platforms like Twitter should be. The same folks who spent years insisting the FCC had no authority over the parts of the internet it actually had authority over, now insist the FCC must regulate the parts it has no authority over. The same folks who whined incessantly about the perils of the Fairness Doctrine, now mindlessly support something arguably worse in Trump’s sloppy social media executive order.
All to keep social media giants from policing toxic political disinformation to protect GOP power, now highly reliant on online disinformation to gloss over what are usually, much like the net neutrality repeal, often extremely unpopular policies.
Despite obvious net neutrality fatigue in policy circles, this is still a battle that matters if you give a shit about things like monopolization, competition, healthy networks, consumer rights, and even playing fields. “Big telecom” has done a great job the last few years convincing DC that “big tech” needs massive, expansive new oversight while “big telecom” should be allowed to engage in whatever anti-competitive behavior it likes. But if we genuinely want to police unchecked corporate power and its impact on competition and innovation, undermining our regulators using, fraud, deceit, and bogus data isn’t the solution.