FCC Plan To Use Thanksgiving To ‘Hide’ Its Attack On Net Neutrality Vastly Underestimates The Looming Backlash

November 21, 2017 in News by RBN Staff


Source: Techdirt | Karl Bode

(H/T: Gov’tSlaves, Click Image Below)

from the there’s-no-hiding-from-this dept

Numerous reports have indicated that the FCC intends to try and hide its attack on net neutrality behind the looming Thanksgiving holiday. The agency is expected to either unveil its formal plan on Wednesday while Americans are distracted by holiday preparations, or potentially on Friday, while Americans are busy shopping for black Friday bargains. Regardless of when it’s unveiled, the announcement will involve unveiling a formal date to vote to finally kill the rules, currently expected to be December 15:

“It’s a devilishly brilliant plan by the FCC and its chairman, Ajit Pai, who has made no secret of his wish to undo the benchmark rules put in place during Barack Obama’s presidency. There will inevitably be plenty of people already enjoying their holiday break, and any major coverage on Wednesday will then be lost to a day of turkey, gravy, football, and indigestion, followed by three more days in which people won’t be looking at the news.”

Except this obfuscation plan isn’t “devilishly brilliant,” it’s a massive underestimation of the brutal backlash awaiting the broadband industry and its myopic water carriers. Survey after survey(including those conducted by the cable industry itself) have found net neutrality has broad, bipartisan support. The plan is even unpopular among the traditional Trump trolls over at 4chan /pol/ that spent the last week drinking onion juice. It’s a mammoth turd of a proposal, and outside of the color guard at the lead of the telecom industry’s sockpuppet parade — the majority of informed Americans know it.

Net neutrality has been a fifteen year fight to protect the very health of the internet itself from predatory duopolists like Comcast. Killing it isn’t something you can hide behind the green bean amandine, and it’s not a small scandal you can bury via the late Friday news dump. This effort is, by absolutely any measure, little more than a grotesque hand out to one of the least competitive — and most disliked — industries in America. Trying to obfuscate this reality via the holidays doesn’t change that. Neither does giving the plan an Orwellian name like “Restoring Internet Freedom.”

It’s abundantly clear that if the FCC and supporters were truly proud of what they were doing, they wouldn’t feel the need to try and hide it. If this was an FCC that actually wanted to have a candid, useful public conversation about rolling back net neutrality, it wouldn’t be actively encouraging fraud and abuse of the agency’s comment system. To date, the entire proceeding has been little more than a glorified, giant middle finger to the public at large, filled with scandal and misinformation. And the public at large — across partisan aisles — is very much aware of that fact.

Consumers, small businesses, and those interested in keeping the internet open, healthy and competitive will remember this severe of a shafting. It’s going to inform policy conversations and voting decisions (especially among Millennials) for years to come. This isn’t something that can be hidden between the cranberry sauce and Grandpa Jones’ corn bake surprise, and the fact that Ajit Pai’s staff thinks that’s even possible highlights how absurdly out of touch the current FCC actually is.

Many people obviously believed that the net neutrality conversation was over when the FCC crafted the 2015 rules, and that they could subsequently tune out because the fight had been won.

But net neutrality isn’t a conversation that begins or ends when rules are created or destroyed. Since net neutrality is just a symptom of the disease that is a lack of broadband competition, this is a battle that will persist for as long as said lack of broadband competition exists, and for as long as companies like Comcast attempt to abuse it. With Pai at the helm, that’s certainly not changing anytime soon. In fact, with the gutting of privacy protections, net neutrality rules, and a blind federal and state eye turned toward cable’s growing monopoly over broadband, it’s going to get notably worse.

Supporters of net neutrality also need to understand that the broadband industry’s assault on net neutrality is a two-phase plan. Phase one is having an unelected bureaucrat like Ajit Pai play bad cop with his vote to dismantle the rules. Phase two will be to gather support for a net neutrality law that professes to be a “long-standing solution to this tiresome debate.” In reality, this law will be written by ISP lobbyists themselves as an attempt to codify federal apathy on this subject into law. These weaker protections will be designed to be so loophole-filled as to effectively be useless, preventing the FCC from revisiting the subject down the road. A solution that isn’t — for a problem they themselves created.

It’s understandable that the public and press is tired of this debate after fifteen years. But instead of hand wringing and apathy, we should be placing the blame for this endless hamster wheel at the feet of those responsible for it: Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter, and the army of lawmakers, economists, fauxcademics, and other hired policy tendrils willing to sell out the health of the internet — and genuinely competitive markets — for a little extra holiday cash. Folks that honestly believe they can lie repeatedly with zero repercussion, and hide a giant middle finger behind the gluten-free stuffing and Aunt Martha’s cardboard-esque pumpkin pie.

Make no mistake: net neutrality is likely a permanent battle against telecom duopolists with a vested interest in abusing a lack of broadband competition. It’s a battle for a healthy, open internet, truly competitive markets, and the right to innovate without Comcast, Verizon or AT&T interference. The decision to ignore the will of the public and kill existing, popular net neutrality rules is going to pour napalm on that fire, not extinguish it.